Investors and business groups attacked Barclays’ long-serving director Sir John Sunderland yesterday, accusing the bank of failing to honour a pledge to replace him as chairman of the remuneration committee.
Last April, Barclays said that Sunderland would leave the bank “at a date to be agreed”, and would be replaced by Crawford Gillies. But 11 months on, that has not happened.
Business group the Institute of Directors joined the call for Sunderland to go, saying he has served on the board too long.
“The Corporate Governance Code is clear that members of the remuneration committee should be independent non-executive directors,” said the group’s senior corporate governance adviser Oliver Parry. “Having served on the board for more the nine years, Sir John Sunderland can no longer be viewed as an independent director, so it is surprising that Barclays have not replaced him as chair of the remuneration committee. It’s very important that Barclays pays attention to the concerns of its shareholders, and we would expect the board to respond… quickly.”
By contrast, Barclays expects Sunderland to leave after the annual general meeting at the end of next month, timing his departure with that of outgoing chairman David Walker. Gillies can then take up his post as the head of the remuneration committee just as incoming chairman John McFarlane takes his seat on the board.
“Sir John Sunderland must go from the Barclays board immediately,” said Kieran Quinn, chair of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum. “Having messed up remuneration for 2013 Sir John has in fact stayed on as chair and presided over another year of still unacceptably high pay for 2014, and is still in place in March 2015.”
Last night, Barclays said the handover process was in keeping with best governance practice: “There has been no breach of ‘promise’ and nor has Barclays acted in a way which is contrary to any statement we have made.”