Governor Luc Coene was speaking only days after the NBB took over the oversight role previously held by the CBFA, days which have been marked by mounting disquiet at the way top bankers pay themselves and each other huge bonuses. The latest example: Dexia bank CEO Pierre Mariani, it was announced, would be receiving a bonus down from €800,000 to €600,000. Closer inspection revealed that Mariani (pictured) was now receiving a "function premium" to account for that missing €200,000. His whole package came to €1.95 million - exactly the same as last year.
Dexia received €6.4 billion in fresh capital from the government in 2008, as well as a credit guarantee, to allow it to borrow money on the markets, worth €150 billion.
The main problem with the bonuses is that the banks in question were all to some extent bailed out by the federal and the Flemish governments in the financial crisis of 2009, and some of the aid still has to be repaid. In addition, trade unions noted that large bonuses for bankers come as a slap in the face to ordinary staff who are being asked to accept caps on pay rises as a result of the economic situation.
Last week Kris Peeters, minister- president of Flanders, whose government had stepped in to support Dexia and KBC, said that he intended to speak to the top executives of the banks personally. According to Coene, that is now his job.
According to a survey carried out by De Tijd newspaper, the average remuneration package paid out to top executives in Belgium fell by 4% in 2010 to €2.07 million, while the companies of the Bel20 index saw their worth increase by 33%. This apparent reserve on the part of CEOs and remuneration committees is at
least partly a result, the newspaper says, of the public outcry at large bonuses. Five bosses made more than €3 million, while the number one spot was held by Carlos Brito of AB InBev, who took home €4.6 million despite suffering a fall in his basic salary of 40%.