RBS' new directors must be getting used to ducking. First the broken windows of a London branch were splashed around the papers a symbol of the anarchists' fight against the excesses of the financial sector. Now they can expect to be dodging missiles of a verbal kind, at today's annual general meeting, as they attempt to create a ‘firebreak' between the past and a (hopefully) less dramatic future.
At least shareholders have the rare treat of attending an AGM with an agenda guaranteed to keep them awake. Item one: its annual loss of £24.1bn - the largest in UK corporate history. Item two: Sir Fred Goodwin and his £17m pension pot. Item three: the £100k a year salaries being paid to three Goodwin-era independent directors who remain on the board despite the bank's near collapse. The list goes on. You can imagine them flogging tickets for such epic drama.
Fred the Shredded's pension should inspire a particular climax: a government agency, as majority shareholder, will register the public anger at the size of his reward. Chairman Sir Philip Hampton has called for an end to the ‘public flogging', revealing his handy trump card: at least the new directors can blame the old lot for their mistakes.
From the Eur71bn purchase of ABN Amro in 2007, to the bank's sponsorship of Formula One, they can simply point to someone else's failings. But they'll still probably squirm trying to explain the £5m in equity awarded to Goodwin's replacement as chief exec, Stephen Hester.
At the same time Hampton has announced the 2,700 planned job cuts previously announced ‘will not be the end of the story'. Indeed, when the bank has to cut its annual costs by £2.5bn, the job losses are almost bound to continue...
The bad news is that while the convergence of calamity may be unique to RBS, the shedding of jobs is far more widespread: insurer Aviva has announced it's losing 1,100 posts, while Northern Ireland's manufacturing industry has apparently lost 2% of its workforce in four days. A further 1,000 jobs have gone from aerospace firm Bombardier in Belfast, and others at Visteon and Nortel earlier this week.