When making comparisons between executive salaries worldwide, you might be surprised to find that the Spanish don't lag far behind the rest. This, in theory, is something that should not be the case, given the economic situation and the smaller corporate league we play in. In Spain, as in the rest of the world, high executive salaries are explained in terms of heavy executive responsibility. No objection here, except that when the chips are down, the sense of responsibility is conspicuous by its absence. Search me - I only know what I read in the newspapers, is the Spanish executive answer.
In Spain, hundreds of companies have gone under, but those who (to say the least) mismanaged them are never made responsible, unless the bankruptcy lands in the courts, as in the ongoing case of Pescanova. Many of us are still watching and waiting to see if anyone is going to be made responsible for the pillaging suffered by the regional savings banks at the hands of very highly paid executives who — apart from leaving debts that we taxpayers are still paying — toddled off with massive severance payments. Again, it is only the courts that, now and then, bring this irregularity to light.
The case of Catalunya Banc is one of these. A former deputy prime minister under Felipe González, Narcís Serra, was the chairman of this bank. In 2008, when the crisis was already upon us, he hired Adolf Todó as director at 825,000 euros a year, with retirement benefits of 80 percent of his salary; on top of which his wife - much younger than he — was to receive a part of this quantity for life. The reason, according to Serra, is that these emoluments are "average in the sector." Fortunately, the present government, which had to inject 12.05 billion euros into this bank, reduced Todó's salary before dismissing him "on reasonable grounds" and denying him the obscene golden handshake. But the courts now find that this is not enough, and the prosecutor is demanding the trial of Serra and Todó, and of the board members who authorized the outrage. What has Serra to say, in court, about all this? Well, it's all the fault of the crisis.
When our athletes fail in international competition, no one will remember the politico who cut their training grants
This summer we saw a shameful spectacle concerning the ERE subsidies and the Bárcenas case. In Andalusia, the Socialists have done a thorough cleanup. Every politician even indirectly implicated in the ERE layoff fund case has been sidelined by new regional premier Susana Díaz; but none, except the former finance head Carmen Martínez Aguayo, has had the decency to admit that they might have borne some responsibility; at the very least, for not having reviewed or changed the system of awarding subsidies.
The governing PP's behavior is even more brazen. The party's successive secretary generals have appeared in procession before the National High Court to testify that they never concerned themselves with the books, so how could they know there was double accounting? What, then, was their job? If they didn't even see the balances, why were they happy to receive such huge salaries, and cash bonuses?
Another chapter of the saga is the Madrid 2020 Olympic candidacy. Miguel Cardenal, secretary of state for sports, has spoken sharply of the failure. He does not think Madrid had much chance of getting the Games, whatever was being said in the run-up to the final decision in Buenos Aires. So, if he has been the government's top sports authority for almost two years, who was responsible for the defeat? Well, naturally, the Spanish Olympic Committee. He put it a little more confusedly: "The chief role and the leadership belong to the Committee, and we in the government have been there to help when requested." Of course, when Spanish athletes fail in international competition, nobody will remember the politico who cut their training grants. Today 25 of the 63 Spanish sporting federations are technically bankrupt. And who is to blame? Probably, the crisis.