Did Reserve Bank of New Zealand outgoing chief give himself a big pay rise? On what grounds?

Michael Reddell, the ever alert commenetator on NZ economy and their revered central bank has a startling piece:

….someone emailed me suggesting that the Reserve Bank Annual Report implied that the (now former) Governor, Graeme Wheeler had had a big pay rise.  And that did interest me, because outside the halls of the Reserve Bank Board it isn’t clear who would have thought that Wheeler had done something even approaching a stellar job as Governor.

Wheeler started at the Bank in September 2012, so we can’t get a read on his initial salary in the (June year) 2012/13 accounts.   But there are four years of annual reports when he will clearly have been the top earner in the Bank.    The relevant tables show the top earner received as follows during these financial years:

2013/14 620000 to 629999
2014/15 640000 to 649999
2015/16 660000 to 669999
2016/17 850000 to 859999

That is some jump.  But there is a footnote on this year’s numbers, stating that “the highest remuneration band includes a payment of $101000 for accrued annual leave, which was paid out in cash rather than taking leave”.  (That must be about two months of unused leave, for someone in the job  – at a time of no crises – less than five years, which itself doesn’t suggest particularly good management.)

But even if we subtract the $101000, we are left with figures suggesting that Graeme Wheeler got a payrise of around $90000 between 2015/2016 and 2016/17.  In fact, it was quite possibly more than that, because he personally may well have been reviewed on the anniversary of his appointment, in September (and if so the 2016/17 numbers may include only around three-quarters of his big annual increase).

So how do his cumulative pay increases compare against either CPI inflation or general wage inflation (I use the analytical unadjusted series, which is materially higher than the QES recently)?  There has, of course, been no productivity growth in New Zealand over the term Wheeler was in office.

wheeler salaries

It is a pretty astonishing boost.  Perhaps not a great problem for somone doing a stellar job but this was someone who:

  • had consistently seen inflation undershoot the target midpoint, that he’d specifically agreed to focus on, for five years,
  • who never, ever, admitted a mistake (surely not his advice to his own young managers?)
  • had repeated communications problems with financial markets,
  • whose speeches rarely offered much in-depth insight, and whose defences of successive waves of new regulatory interventions never seemed robustly grounded.
  • whose embattled relationship with the media was epitomised in his refusal to ever expose himself to a serious  and searching one-on-one interview (or indeed any interviews with outlets not already supportive of the Governor).

Oh, and then late in the 2015/16 year, there was the OCR leak debacle which among other serious failings, involved the Governor publicly tarring as irresponsible the person (yes that was me) who drew to the Bank’s attention evidence of the apparent leak.

This year, of course, (but no doubt well after Wheeler got his last pay rise) there was the still-more-shameful episode, in which Wheeler sought personally (and used his senior managers to reinforce his efforts) to silence a pesky critic, who happened to work for an organisation the Reserve Bank regulates.  And on that note his tenure ended badly, and largely unlamented.

So what were they thinking when they gave such a big pay rise to someone with such a mediocre (at best) track record, who was hardly like to walk out on them if he didn’t get the increase?  And who was “they”?

He then gets to the politics behind the pay rise as it can only be approved by the government.

All kinds of things happening in the world of central banks…

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One Response to “Did Reserve Bank of New Zealand outgoing chief give himself a big pay rise? On what grounds?”

  1. Anantha Nageswaran Says:

    The world is devoid of moral campuses and very few, if any, are left with credibility to talk about egregious executive compensation and inequality. Sad. Veyry sad.

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