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Money for old rope

Hefty pay packages are fine in principle but they must be earned

Given the FSA has been on the back foot from the outset, its latest annual report meant its bosses were easy targets.

Go to page 112 and you can see how much the top brass were rewarded last year. Hector Sants, for instance, got a package worth £835,000. Whether someone earning a hefty wage or getting a bumper bonus deserves the amount they get is always subjective.

One of my favourite bonus tales concerns fund manager Brian Ashford-Russell. He and his team raked in £43m in performance fees when the Henderson Technology Trust outperformed its benchmark index at the height of the tech boom in 1999, leading one adviser to comment: “A monkey investing in technology stocks would have beaten the FT S&P World index by a mile. Is this really outperformance?”

In the following months, while the managers were enjoying their lucre, investors were suffering significant losses. But I digress.

The board at the FSA rightly comes under scrutiny because it is responsible for protecting consumer interests. Given its track record on spotting and dealing with problems later rather than sooner, you can see why many people are raising their eyebrows.

In 2007, John Tiner, the then head of the FSA, received a package worth £652,577, compared with £572,619 a year earlier, something split-cap investors would have found hard to swallow in light of Tiner’s valedictory comments in the FSA’s annual report that year, boasting that the regulator had “been able to secure effective and timely outcomes for split-cap investors”. Those investors that were eligible – and there were plenty who were not -got back just 49p for every £1 invested.

Then there was the man behind the treating customers fairly fiasco, Clive Briault.

Briault was also an official in charge of supervising Northern Rock when it collapsed, yet he received a payoff of almost £530,000 when he left, taking his total remuneration for that year to almost £884,000.

It makes you wonder what they would have received had they really made a difference. Which leads me on to the Money Advice Service.

It is perhaps ironic that FSA chairman Lord Turner, who picked up £500,000 last year, including £52,000 to pay into his own pension, suggested that MAS chief executive Tony Hobman’s £350,000 remuneration was too much. But it does seem a lot for an organisation that seems to be struggling to make an impact.

It has spent more than £10m on marketing and plans to attract 11.3 million users a year by 2016-17 as part of its five-year strategy – but for now they are just numbers.

The MAS was set up in April 2011 yet it has not registered with me. You would have thought that one way of reaching out to people would be by using the national press.

I edit Your Money, The Sunday Telegraph’s money section and The Telegraph’s money website, yet the total number of press releases I have received over the past year from MAS is four.

Over the past five years there has been a raft of money websites set up to help people with money matters, which are, arguably, doing a better job than the MAS in helping households get through these tough economic times.

I do not have a problem with high remuneration packages, as long as they are deserved – and as it stands, the criticism being fired at the MAS seems justified.

Paul Farrow is personal finance editor at the Telegraph Media Group

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