Are Chief Executives Overpaid?

Held on Monday, October 15, 2018, 12:30-14:15pm


  • Deborah Hargreaves (author)

  • Cliff Weight (MM&K)

  • Catherine Howarth (ShareAction)



My immediate response is Yes – and grotesquely so. But that is an answer born out of envy and ignorance – and the fact that I am almost certainly the worst-paid Wharton grad of my year. It is a lot more complicated than that – but there is little doubt:

  • that the growth of top people’s pay has shown an almost inexorable upward march;

  • that the gap between those at the very top and those in the middle has widened; and

  • that this has tested people’s faith in capitalism and (more contentiously) has contributed to the growth of political populism.

Put like that, it all sounds a wee bit leftish – and Debbie Hargreaves was indeed business editor of the Guardian before she left to form the High Pay Centre, which she ran from 2011 to 2015. But, before that, she spent 19 years at that bastion of pink-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism, the Financial Times – where she was news editor, financial editor, personal finance editor and a foreign correspondent. She knows whereof she speaks, and her concerns are rooted in a fear that excessive executive remuneration is damaging business and the economy as well as undermining faith in capitalism.

It has so far proved impossible to get a couple of fat cats to defend their pay packets (though we are still trying), but we do have two respondents who can provide more context for Debbie’s analysis:

  • Cliff Weight joined MM&K, where he is now a NED, in 2006, having previously worked with Mercer and the Hay Group. He is also a NED at Manifest and ShareSoc, and is a member of the editorial board of the Executive Compensation Briefing. On top of that, he is the author of the Directors’ Remuneration Handbook.

  • Catherine Howarth has been CEO at ShareAction since 2008. She is also a board member of the Scott Trust (which owns the Guardian), an investment committee member of the Trust for London and a member of the Treasury’s Asset Management Taskforce.

This is (IMHO) an important issue, which we should not shy away from. I hope the speakers get some push back from the audience, but, whether they do or not, I can promise a lively discussion. If you (or a colleague) would like to join us, please let us know by emailing or by calling the Centre on 0207 621 1056. As usual, there will be wine and sandwiches.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Hilton