EU lawmakers back tighter control of fund manager pay

By John O'Donnell and Claire Davenport

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A European Parliament panel called on Thursday for tighter control of fund manager pay, but a senior lawmaker who oversaw the vote indicated it was unlikely to approve the kind of strict bonus cap imposed on banks.

While some members of the European Parliament responsible for financial regulation believed it would be unfair to penalise fund managers in the same way as bankers, a show of hands showed strong enough support for some form of restrictions.

The parliament agreed on Wednesday to give bankers in Europe one final bonus season before they are barred from being awarded payouts worth more than their salary.

"The majority are signalling that they want something. But it is also the case that we want to do some tweaking," Sharon Bowles, who chaired the meeting of the economic and monetary affairs committee, told Reuters.

"I expect, on the remuneration side, we may want to do a little more tailoring," said Bowles, a British Liberal Democrat politician, adding that a distinction needed to be drawn between banks and fund managers.

Strong support for pay curbs comes after the parliament's success in demanding the cap on banker bonuses. But although a strong majority favoured pay controls on fund managers, there was a significant minority that did not want a cap.

That divergence of views meant the parliament did not finalise its position on Thursday and suggests its final demands on fund manager pay will be more nuanced than the banker bonus limit.

Sven Giegold, a German member of the assembly, had proposed changing bonus rules in a similar way for fund managers by amending EU law governing what are termed "undertakings of collective investment in transferable securities" (UCITS).

Giegold told Reuters that he was confident he could win support for the introduction of a cap, a move he said was important to close any avenue to avoid a ceiling on banker bonuses.

"If you don't regulate UCITS, it's an unlevel playing field," he said. "There is a risk of regulatory arbitrage."

Giegold acknowledged, however, the reservations of some lawmakers who oppose a strict limit, saying: "For systemic stability, the real investment fund is not as dangerous as a bank."

Any rule change will encompass mutual funds, which have about 6 trillion euros under management, but not affect hedge funds or private equity investors, governed by different law.

But such a reform would also be the likely precursor to wider restrictions on pay in finance, including those of hedge funds.

(Reporting By Claire Davenport and John O'Donnell; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)