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Skimming off fat cats' cream; There is still the suspicion that most "do wells" have not earned their rewards.

Americans have been known to stop and applaud Rolls-Royce drivers. "Passers-by want to show their appreciation for someone who has made it," one celebrity explained.

Here the Rolls owner is more likely to find his car ruined by keys scraped down the wing, complains the British-born star who, not surprisingly, chooses to live in the US.

The authors of the latest report into boardroom behaviour - headed by ICI chairman Mr Ronnie Hampel - probably did not consider these contrasting attitudes to wealth.

But with all that "fat cat" fuss, Mr Hampel was under pressure to come down hard on directors. To lay down rules to make sure they do not step out of line.

But, in the true spirit of selegulation, Hampel prefers guidelines to rules. He argues that 99 per cent of bosses are above reproach.

So what, if anything, should be done?

Hampel, and his corporate governance review predecessors, Greenbury and Cadbury, were in part responses to a public backlash.

Most of us lap up the "fat cat" stories. There is still the suspicion that most "do wells" have not earned their rewards - their father must have known the right people.

To stir things up ahead of Mr Hampel the unions released figures showing salaries of directors have gone up by four times as much as workers' pay over the past three years.

Many will disagree. That's the way of the world, the harsh reality, they'll argue.

But Britons do want some protection from the inequalities the system throws up. Whether this can happen in today's global economy is another matter.

But the Government is at least right to look at the possibilities.

Mr Monks argues "excess" boardroom pay needs to be tackled to restore public confidence in companies and respond to the Chancellor's call for wage restraint.

The TUC wants workers to be represented on the remuneration committees, which set directors' pay, adding that big rises should be explained in company reports.

Of course, this sort of thing already happens on the Continent, with its record levels of unemployment, critics point out. Then again, the standard of living of the average European is well ahead of ours.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 2, 1998
Words:359
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