Bonus culture lives
A committee of MPs today criticises a remuneration system that gave inappropriate and excessive rewards to hundreds of powerful people.
And before you ask, you wag, they were not holding a mirror up to themselves.
The Treasury Select Committee was - of course - lambasting the City's bonus culture, which it says led to "reckless and excessive risk-taking".
On this occasion, the MPs are only voicing what many British people have thought for months.
But, strikingly, the Labour-controlled committee does not conclude that the payment of substantial bonuses to top banking executives should be prohibited altogether - not even in the big banks, RBS and Lloyds, where we as taxpayers have huge stakes.
The MPs say: "we believe that there is a strong case for curbing or stopping bonus payments for staff on higher salaries" at Lloyds and RBS.
But in the end they conclude that would not be a good idea because "unduly strict restrictions on bonuses to such staff would result in the banks struggling to recruit and retain talented staff" - which would "be to the detriment of the taxpayer as a major shareholder in both institutions".
If you work at RBS and Lloyds, you should probably send the MPs a thank-you card, not least because the expenses antics of their colleagues in the Commons means that it may once again be safe for you to divulge at parties what you do for a living.
All that said, the MPs have not come down in favour of the status quo when it comes to bankers' pay.
They do want a ban on bonuses being paid to bankers until its clear that the profits generated by those bankers are real and sustainable - which was not the case with many of the notionally colossal profits generated in 2006 and 2007 from trading in toxic investments, such as collateralised debt obligations.
And they urge thorough reform of the "governance" system that sets bankers' pay:
• more involvement of staff and shareholders in setting remuneration for top bankers;
• much more "transparency" about what bankers are paid (so publication not just of the remuneration of those on boards but also of senior bankers below board level);
• and possible overhaul of the role of remuneration consultants, who are accused of making a pernicious contribution to the "upward ratchet of pay of senior executives in the banking sector".
As for the City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority, well the MPs say they're concerned at its "apparent complacency" about the links between the bonus culture and the banking crisis.
The MPs say: "The FSA was extremely slow of the mark in recognising the risk that inappropriate remuneration practices within the banking system could pose to financial stability".
The FSA is miffed by the attack - or at least it is in a press release, though its head honchos are not standing up to be counted on this today.
However, in fairness to the FSA, it did signal many months ago - and before other regulators - that it would impose costly higher capital requirements on banks that fail to adopt a more prudent approach to pay.
It's just that for whatever reason, neither its chairman, Lord Turner, or its chief executive, Hector Sants, have chosen to fulminate from the pulpit on the putative evils of the demon bonus.
There are also a couple of ad hominem attacks. The MPs fear that the former regulator and erstwhile banker, Sir David Walker, may not be the "ideal person to take on the task of reviewing corporate governance arrangements in the banking system" - which is what Sir David is doing for the Treasury.
The insinuation is that Sir David is too much of an insider to shake up the system in the way that's warranted.
And there's a wrist-slapping for Lord Myners, the City minister and erstwhile big cheese in the fund management industry.
The MPs say he could and should have done more to prevent Sir Fred Goodwin receiving that notorious £16.6m pension pot - that screaming manifestation of payments for grotesque failure in the banking industry - on leaving Royal Bank of Scotland last autumn.
Myners always thought of himself as something of a scourge of the financial industry's establishment. So he'll be harrumphing this morning at the MPs' charge that his "City background and naivete as to the public perception of these matters may have led him to place too much trust in the RBS board".
But he probably feels less chastened than would have been the case only a week ago. Because that resonant phrase, "naivete as to the public perception of these matters", is a devastating criticism that would stick to many MPs in relation to their allowances - and probably undermines the moral force of their indictments of others.