Ambereen Choudhury London and Paris

Barclays paid 12 senior executives about £31.8 million (R566.3m) in bonuses for last year as it prepares to eliminate jobs this year.

Hugh McGee, who became Barclays’s chief executive for the Americas in May last year, was the highest paid with £8.87m, the bank said yesterday.

Chief executive Antony Jenkins was given shares valued at £3.82m.

Barclays drew criticism last month for boosting its total bonus pool for last year even as investment banking profit shrank, and it plans to cut as many as 12 000 jobs this year to eliminate costs after profit declined. Adjusted pretax profit fell to £191m in the fourth quarter from £1.4 billion a year earlier, Barclays said last month.

Barclays is among currency trading firms that have suspended traders amid a probe into alleged rigging of the foreign exchange market. At least 21 employees of global banks have been fired, suspended or put on leave since it was reported in June last year that dealers said they had shared information about client orders to manipulate benchmark rates used in the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market.

No firms or traders have been accused of wrongdoing by government authorities.

The executive awards published yesterday compare with £40.3m shared among nine managers last year, including Rich Ricci, the former head of the investment bank, who was awarded £17.6m in shares.

Last month the bank set aside £2.4bn for 2013 bonuses, up from £2.17bn a year earlier.

Meanwhile, Société Générale became the first among Europe’s leading investment banks to formally seek shareholder permission to pay bonuses amounting to twice bankers’ salaries.

The bank will seek a two-thirds majority at its May 20 annual shareholders’ meeting, according to a motion published on its website on Monday. Under EU rules, banks will not be able to pay certain categories of executives bonuses that exceed their annual fixed pay, unless shareholders approve a doubling of the cap.

The EU imposed curbs on variable compensation to prevent a recurrence of risky behaviour blamed for triggering the 2008 financial crisis.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s financial services chief, was due to be quizzed by legislators yesterday on the bloc’s enforcement of bonus curbs, amid warnings that lenders might have too much scope to sidestep the measures. At stake is European banks’ ability to retain key staff without increasing fixed costs. – Bloomberg