Last week’s most shocking statistic revealed that the average pay of a FTSE100 company executive rose by almost a half last year. The bare figure is not quite fair on the hard-working fatcats on these top boards, since a big chunk of those rewards came as a result of bonus plans put into place during the boom years, but an average of £2.7 million for a year’s work still looks pretty grotesque.

We had the ritual response from the politicians: big rewards are fine when they’re earned, but rewards for failure are unacceptable. This is dismal boilerplate stuff, devoid of meaning. The big rewards for entrepreneurs are nothing to do with the case for FTSE executives, whose pay comes up with the rations and whose bonuses are designed by remuneration consultants to be impenetrable. The Smiths Group report has pages of guff about the six (count ’em) elements in its executive pay, and just in case the shareholders had started to understand them, the company promised a new, and even more complicated package for Philip Bowman, its chief executive. The shareholders had already approved the new terms, perhaps because they voted before they could read them, but Smiths has dropped the plan after the ABI finally tried to understand the tortuous prose.

As for the rewards for failure, these remain almost as mouthwatering. Indeed, if a chief executive can fail quickly, the annualised return on his time can be better than if he keeps at it, because failure dare not speak its name. It’s called “leaving to pursue other interests” as if he was leaving to pursue the same interests. The few companies that have contested severance payments have fared badly in the courts. Besides, the new team has to put out the fires started by the failing CEO, and has neither time nor inclination to fight an awkward legal battle.

So why don’t the shareholders object to these life-changing incentive schemes? The answer comes from PWC, the accountants. The big shareholders are not real shareholders at all. It’s not their money, they are merely managing it, and they are on the same gravy train. PwC has discovered that rewards for fund managers are rising by 18% a year. They have their own complex incentive schemes to pay out lottery-sized winnings. The last thing they want to do is draw attention to them.