Politicians furious about ING boss's massive pay raise

ING Bank raised the salary of CEO Ralph Hamers by more than half this year, to over 3 million euros, NOS reports. Parliamentarians are furious and demand an explanation. Minister Wopke Hoekstra of Finance is "not amused", according to newspaper AD.

According to the ING commissioners, Hamers earns far too little compared to colleagues from European companies of comparable size. The commissioners have been struggling with that difference for some time now, chairman of the supervisory board Jeroen van der Veer said in the Financieele Dagblad. "Ralph Hamers is Eredivise, but paid Jupiler league", the newspaper quotes him. He would not say whether Hamers asked for the wage increase. 

Van der Veer acknowledges that ING is going against Dutch banks' trend of austerity with this pay increase. But adds that ING is a different type of bank - more focused on the foreign market than ABN Amro and not a cooperative like Rabobank. He hopes for understanding from ING's other employees, who will receive a wage increase of 1.7 percent as per a collective bargaining agreement reached in September, according to NOS.

This massive pay raise baffled the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. A majority supported a motion by GroenLinks and D66 for Van der Veer to come and explain the bank's decision in a debate. D66 parliamentarian Jan Paternotte called it a "bizarre decision", according to AD.

GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver wants to know in what universe the ING commissioners are living. "This is what Hamers said three years ago when he already received a 30 percent increase: 'it testifies of courage'. As far as I'm concerned, it mainly testifies of arrogance", Klaver said. GroenLinks parliamentarian Bart Snels adds: "Arrogant, undesirable and socially rude." He wants a debate with Finance Minister Hoekstra.

"The banking industry still lacks a sense of social responsibility", ChristenUnie MP Eppo Bruins said. The PVV calls the raise shameful. "While the top men are happily rummaging along - another 50 percent - the ordinary man has to get by with a crumb", PVV leader Geert Wilders said.

SP leader Lilian Marijnissen points out that ING cut 2,300 Dutch jobs, despite apparently having the money to increase the boss' salary. "And then 'hope for understanding'. I don't think so!" she said, according to AD. PvdA leader Lodewijk Asscher posted a photo of Leonardo Dicaprio playing Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street on Twitter. "The financial sector has not learned a thing", he said, calling the raise "shameful"

Minister Hoekstra is not pleased with the raise, calling it "excessive". This will not help in restoring the "fragile trust" in the banking sector, he said. He immediately contacted the bank. 

The trade unions are also furious. "I think it's absurd. If Mr. Hamers plays in the Eredivisie, then so do the 14 thousand other employees of ING", Ike Wiersinga of CNV said to NOS. She thinks ING is going back to the past. "The old-fashioned rummaging starts. ING could have said: We do things differently in the Netherlands than in other countries. The bank was upheld by tax payers, so we take our social responsibility."

According to FNV, Hamers already earned far too much compared to his staff, and this gap is now even bigger. The union assumes a factor of 20 in the difference between the CEO and the lowest paid employee. According to this criterion, Hamers should earn around 1 million euros, the union said to NU.nl. The union also points out that in the pensions negotiations, ING wants to reduce costs. "Start at the top of of the ladder with your principles, I would say", FNV director Gerard van Hees said to the newspaper.