Top US Firm Said To Threaten UK Reprisals Over Bonus Tax

The Sunday Telegraph reports that UK Chancellor Alistair Darling took an angry telephone call from JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon last month, soon after the announcement of the UK bank bonus tax.

According to the newspaper, Dimon issued a 'coded warning' that JPMorgan may consider scrapping its plans to build a $2.40bn flagship European HQ building in London's Canary Wharf in view of the UK's uncertain tax regime, and the fact that new regulations emerging from UK market regulator The Financial Services Authority look to be among the most stringent in the financial markets.

And it's not just JPMorgan who might be venting about the current UK tax and regulatory environment. Concerns are growing that HSBC may be the next firm to quit the UK, given that CEO Michael Geoghegan is to be based in Hong Kong from next year. There's also growing speculation that Barclays may be reviewing its position, as CEO John Varley has come down hard against the UK bank bonus tax, and President Bob Diamond (who also runs BarCap) is already based in New York.

One banker told Here Is The City: 'Typically, a Labour Government will always overdo it. In an effort to be 'holier than thou', the government will shoot itself (and the UK) in the foot. The US, German and governments in Asia must be rubbing their hands in glee, thankful that the UK is being run by such idiots, who are merely handing the likes of them tax revenues on a plate'.

In the meantime, The Evening Standard has reported that staff over at Barclays Capital received notification of base pay hikes of up to 150% just before Christmas. There were concerns that such a move might be seen as a way to get round the UK bank bonus tax, but as Barclays had been considering increasing base pay for some prior to the imposition of the tax earlier this month, lawyers feel that the UK government would be unable to challenge the arrangements.

And The Wall Street Journal reports that Morgan Stanley is to overhaul the way its compensates its most senior executives. The newspaper quotes unnamed 'people familiar with the matter', who suggest that top management are likely to get 25% of their comp in cash, with the rest in deferred equity. There is also likely to be a bonus clawback arrangement put in place.

The newspaper also reports that outgoing AIG counsel Anastasia Kelly, who resigned her position at the firm due to the imposition of US federal pay curbs, is likely to get 'several million dollars' in exit pay. How ironic.

Finally, The Guardian reports that several large companies which operate in the UK are looking to construct 'complex' compensation schemes to allow senior executives escape the 50% tax rate being imposed from next April. Some of the share-based schemes are thought likely to reduce taxes to just 18% of income. Strangely, there appears to be a lot of interest in tax efficiency these days. Are you listening, Mr Brown ?

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