Barclays (NYSE:BCS) CEO Antony Jenkins just earned himself a tip of the cap.
Jenkins on Friday told the London-based bank’s board of directors “thanks, but no thanks,” asking it not to award him a bonus for 2012, citing “multiple issues of our own making besetting the bank.” (The biggest “issue,” of course, was the Libor price-fixing scandal, in which the investment bank rigged interest rates.)
Make no mistake: Jenkins is no martyr. While he passed on a bonus that could have been as much as $4.35 million, he’ll still be taking home $1.75 million in base salary. And Jenkins’ comments show he was aware that his potential bonus was the subject of some derision — thus, while he may be genuinely contrite, he also knows this is the proper PR play.
So why the nod to Jenkins?
Because at least he knew the right thing to do. And then he went out and did it.
Self-awareness shouldn’t be taken for granted at the corporate level, where the yes men are as plentiful as the egos are large. And surely, we’re not suddenly seeing a shocking lack of greed among Wall Street bigwigs.
For example, Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) just voted to nearly double CEO James Gorman’s salary to $1.5 million a year. This is the same Morgan Stanley that in 2012 kept retail investors in the dark about risks to the Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) IPO, had its German branch chief resign amid an investigation there, paid $4.8 million to settle its own price-fixing scandal (for electricity!) and was sued by the ACLU for discrimination.
You could argue that Gorman deserved it — despite all those black marks, he helped lead the company to 26% share gains in 2012, doubling the S&P 500 for the year. Then again, BCS shares returned 58% in the same time frame. (And they’re up 61% since Jenkins took the helm Aug. 30.)
JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) at least had the good sense to dock Jamie Dimon after the “London Whale” fiasco. Even then, Dimon wasn’t exactly proactive about it.
And while every story about Jenkins’ bonus (including this one) is hedged with his lofty salary, is this really any different than the symbolic $1 salaries taken by the likes of former Citigroup (NYSE:C) CEO Vikram Pandit or former Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt? Pandit wasn’t sleeping in a tent in his office. Schmidt wasn’t showering at the YMCA. They got theirs. But both received praise, and deservedly so — those millions saved were millions that could be spent elsewhere, whether on other employees or just building the business.
Asterisk it however you want, but Jenkins manned up today.
And considering how often we in the media call shenanigans on the parade of clowns lording over the financial sector, Jenkins probably earned a few hundred words for doing the right thing.
Kyle Woodley is the Deputy Managing Editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Follow him on Twitter at @IPKyleWoodley.