Implementing the Remuneration Code

It is no surprise really that CP10/19 has received more attention than the FSA’s other eighteen consultation papers this year put together. Remuneration is a big issue and a political hot potato into which the FSA risks being drawn in and melted down. By now everyone will be familiar with the main features – deferral and payment in shares – but most will not yet have given serious thought to the practicalities of implementation.

This is a consultation that shows further signs of the Regulator’s growing europeanisation. Not only is the process absurdly rushed, thanks to the European timetable for CRD III, but its wording is obscure and its implementation vague. Appealing as it may be to experience such flexibility in regulation, it is bad regulation and results in uncertainty, subjective assessment and resentment. As europeanisation progresses, we can look forward to much more of this.

Generally firms expect to be able to hold their fire until they can see the whites of the eyes of the new regulations. Not so this time. The European officials have again demonstrated their disdain for facilitating national consultation, leaving the FSA the task of dragooning the industry to meet the deadline of 1st January, largely on the basis of rules that only exist in draft. The flexibility that the FSA proposes is little short of fudge, but fudge for which we should be grateful even if we don’t much like the taste. Observe the use of proportionality as a smoke screen for staggered implementation, with key elements held over to after the legal time-limit.

Nevertheless, at least partial implementation is required by 1 Jan. Few firms will find it realistic to wait for the confirmed rules in November before starting the necessary programme of implementation of the “appropriate governance arrangements”.  Some will be lucky or prescient enough to find that they already meet the obligations; most will not. Immediate attention is needed to remuneration policies, to record-keeping, to the remuneration committee, to the involvement of Risk and Compliance, to employment contracts. All of this is the home work prior to the main test of full compliance by 1st July 2011.

But the real challenge lies not in the tight timeframe and not in the volume of activity required, tiresome enough as that may be, but in the judgement call on who is to be covered by the Code. Many will be tempted by the simple approach of rough justice for all. But for quite a large number of firms the de minimis rule will exempt so many emploees as to require at least a careful review to ensure that remuneration arrangements are not being unnecessarily complicated, at cost to the firm and cost to the recipients.

If we can help you to tackle these issues, either by advice or more practical support, call me on 020 3170 6371.

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