Margetts: No pay boost for top L&G staff

LEGAL &amp; General (L&amp;G) chairman Sir Rob Margetts yesterday said no staff at the firm earning over &pound;100,000 received a payrise last year and confirmed all directors waived their bonuses, as he faced shareholders at the group&rsquo;s annual meeting.<br /><br />He said it &ldquo;would be inappropriate to make those payments when the company is reducing headcount and your returns are being reduced&rdquo;, drawing cheers from investors.<br /><br />The chairman issued a veiled attack on rival firms that have defied the tide of anti-bonus sentiment during the recession and maintained remuneration policies, stating: &ldquo;We see ourselves as different to others in the City.&rdquo;<br /><br />Shareholders voted resoundingly in favour of the remuneration policy at the meeting, and confirmed their approval of the firm&rsquo;s decision earlier this year to slash dividends to shore up capital, in the face of possible contagion from the stricken banking sector during the downturn.<br /><br />But Margetts faced dissent over the board&rsquo;s decision to continue its costly programme of share buybacks, with one irate shareholder describing the action as short-termist and the &ldquo;fiscal equivalent to cocaine&rdquo;.<br /><br />Under 95 per cent of shareholders voted &ldquo;yes&rdquo; to the plan&rsquo;s continuation at the largely cordial meeting, even though all other resolutions were less than two per cent opposed.<br /><br />Margetts said shareholders had voted to initiate the strategy at previous meetings and said it made sense in the long term.<br /><br />The chairman refused to comment on speculation he had to go back to the drawing board to find a new heir to his role after his first choice, Sir James Crosby, became a whistleblower at failed bank HBOS.<br /><br />Margetts said an active recruitment process is ongoing and a replacement would be named in due course, adding: &ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got me for now.&rdquo;<br /><br />And the chairman defended the firm&rsquo;s decision to avoid adopting Market Consistent Embedded Value (MCEV), a voluntary accounting standard being adopted in Europe, stating it actually encourages cyclicality.<br /><br />He added the firm &ldquo;remains financially strong&rdquo;.