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When Tom Glocer was installed as chief executive of Reuters, the news and financial information provider, not even he could have realised the scale of the task ahead of him. Glocer, the first non-journalist to lead the group in its 150-year history - and a US lawyer for good measure - found himself presiding over a rapidly shrinking company. Those expensive Reuters terminals were among the early casualties of the blood-letting on Wall Street and in the City.

Two years on, Glocer is unlikely to win awards for popularity. The Reuters workforce is being cut from near-16,000 to 13,000 while products are being disbanded. The share price has collapsed. In the thick of this, Glocer has collected a tidy £1.7m pay package, including a £612,000 bonus.

Chief executives never seem too bothered about what people think of them.

Charles Thomson, chief executive of Equitable Life, has just collected a £100,000 pay rise – a brazen example of boardroom insensitivity.

Yet there are exceptions. BA, also slimming down in line with reduced demand – has structured its remuneration policies to avoid embarrassment.

Glocer’s equivalent Rod Eddington received no bonus last year, although his basic pay at £504,000 would be enough to satisfy most.

The shouts about ‘rewards for failure’ surely penetrate even the panelled walls of UK boardrooms, but seem to fall on deaf ears. Men like Glocer are very well paid: foresaking a bonus as a gesture of goodwill would not be so difficult. Instead, we can expect more protest votes from institutions – and a continuing disdain from supposedly elected corporate officers.

Turning down a bonus would not solve Reuters’ problems, but it would have been the decent thing to do.

  • Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times

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