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Barclays top dogs decline bonuses as they defend ability to reward key staff

BARCLAYS’ two top executives yesterday moved to soothe populist anger over the City’s remuneration culture by agreeing to forego their 2009 bonuses while emphasising their “gratitude” for state action to prop up the banking system during the crisis.

Chief executive John Varley and president Bob Diamond, head of the lucrative investment bank Barclays Capital, declined to take a bonus despite the board judging that discretionary payouts were “merited based on group and personal performance”.

The decision came after Diamond received a £22m windfall from the sale of his stake in Barclays Global Investors, sold to BlackRock last year.

Barclays said it would hand out £2.7bn to the rest of its 144,200 employees, made up of £1.5bn in cash awards and £1.2bn in long-term equity payouts. The average bonus at BarCap came in at £95,000, compared to an average payout of £19,000 across the rest of the group. However, the investment bank restricted its bonus pool to just 38 per cent of revenue, well below 2008’s 44 per cent ratio.

The bank also said that share-based bonuses for its executive committee would be deferred in their entirety over three years.

Varley admitted that judgments on pay were neither easy nor straightforward, and that Barclays was “sensitive to the mood of the world”.

But he was quick to defend the bank’s pay policy, adding: “As chief executive, I don’t have many complaints to make about the performance of Barclays Capital – and at the heart of that success lie our people.”