Let’s first deal with the correction. My three reports in the previous
edition
of Crikey about Babcock & Brown’s annual report were wrong
in terms of the time of lodgement – it was 12.54pm Friday, not
Monday morning. The blunder was partly because I didn’t know what day it was, but also
because I didn’t believe it was possible all the major media outlets would have
missed such a big story for three days.

In what is a sad reflection on the state of business journalism in
Australia, it seems that keeping tabs on ASX announcements is not
something that happens on a Friday afternoon any more. This is how the story of
Babcock & Brown’s extraordinary 2005 pay packages unfolded.

Friday: Annual report and notice of meeting for AGM lodged with
ASX at 12.54pm. Missed by all wire services and supposedly fast online
providers covering breaking news.
Saturday: No coverage in any Saturday paper, including The AFR, which wasn’t to come out again until Wednesday.
Sunday: No mention on the two weekend TV business shows and nothing in the Sunday papers.
Monday: Still no coverage in the papers, but Crikey publishes
three stories at 1.24pm after physically receiving two copies of the annual
report as a shareholder that morning.

Tuesday:
The Australian publishes a report with a very similar tone and line to Crikey and The Age also follows up in its gossip column.

Wednesday:
The SMH belatedly puts it on the record but The AFR still fails to mention it.

Does anyone remember the major public debate that erupted last May
when Macquarie Bank’s 2004-05 salary figures were released? It was front page news because the top seven executives shared $89 million and even Peter Costello publicly questioned
it. Fast forward 12 months and the second biggest pay bonanza ever
released – $55.8 million for the top seven – by an Australian-based company
is completely ignored.

Here is a table
which
lines up the biggest pay packets at Macquarie Bank and Babcock &
Brown. Macquarie won’t release its first top ten until its full year
results on 18 May, which is why we only have 17 names on the list.

Name Position Latest annual pay
1. Allan Moss CEO Macquarie Bank $18.5m
2. Nicholas Moore Macquarie investment banking boss $18.22m
3. Bill Moss Macquarie property boss $15.4m
4. Phil Green Babcock CEO $12.18m
5. Ottmar Weiss Macquarie commodities boss $11.5m
6. Andrew Downe Macquarie treasury boss $10.4m
7. Michael Maxwell Babcock property boss $10.06m
8. David Clarke Macquarie chairman $9.8m
9. Peter Hofbauer Babcock infrastructure boss $9.44m
10. Martin Rey Babcock Europe boss $7.03m
11. Steven Zissis Babcock aircraft leasing boss $5.73m
12. David Ross Babcock chief operating officer $5.64m
13. Robert Topfer Babcock corporate finance boss $5.09m
14. Richard Sheppard Macquarie deputy MD $4.8m
15. James Babcock Babcock executive chairman $4.62m
16. Daniel Brickman Babcock structured finance boss $4.47m
17. James Fantaci Babcock US and leasing boss $4.41m

Macquarie clearly pays more at the very
top. However, Babcock has eight of the top 15. The annual report shows that
Babcock averaged $768,248 across its average 2005 staff number of 548,
yet The SMHtrumpeted last May that Macquarie averaged $185,936 across its 6,556 staff in 2004-05.

So here we have a tale about the most generous and lucrative employer
in the country lodging a document with the ASX and it completely passes
the mainstream media by. Sad, isn’t it.

Peter Fray

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