Public trust in big business collapsing

Jun 30 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

A MORI opinion poll for the Financial Times has found that the overwhelming majority of people in the UK regard the directors of large public companies as untrustworthy and overpaid.

The poll of more than 1,000 people reveals that the continuing impact of the recent 'fat cat' debate is deep public cynicism towards the directors of large public companies. Four out of five people believe directors of large companies cannot be trusted to tell the truth, while almost eight out of ten (78 per cent) think that directors are paid too much.

According to the FT, this distrust of company directors is felt right across gender, age and social classes and in all parts of the UK. Three-quarters of the highest social class do not trust directors of large companies. The negative image is more strongly felt among the middle-aged than the young.

The pensions crisis has only increased the extent to which the public has lost faith in big business. The FT poll found that almost two-thirds of those in full-time employment say they do not believe that "companies can be trusted to honour their pension commitments to employees", while one in four workers no longer believes that company pension schemes are worth joining.

Writing in todayís FT, Robert Worcester of MORI says: "Trust goes hand in hand with standards in public and corporate life. When people do not think they can trust companies to tell the truth, they are suspicious and ask for government regulation to protect consumers from being cheated, from risk from faulty products, from breaches of faith in employment protection, for protection against pension defaults.

"There was a time when the senior partner of a law firm, the greybeards in the City, in business and even in politics, when confronted with dodgy practice would say 'not done'; more recently, it seems they would say 'how much?'"

But while the public does not trust company bosses, they nevertheless seem to believe that many are doing a good job. More than three-quarters of those in employment say their workplace is well run, compared with only just over half who believe that the country is managed properly.