The chief executive of HSBC is expected to waive his entitlement to multimillion pound bonuses today as the world's third biggest bank embarks on a record-breaking cash call to shore up its balance sheet.
The move comes after Harriet Harman launched the strongest attack so far on the former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, telling Sir Fred Goodwin his pension was not guaranteed and warning him he "should not count on being £650,000 a year better off".
Although senior government figures have repeatedly attacked Goodwin - saying his pension was inconsistent with the disastrous state in which he left the bank - ministers were last night privately angry that the deputy leader of the Labour party had gone too far in promising he could possibly have his pension docked under new legislation.
One highly-placed source told the Guardian: "Harriet has jumped the gun over this. There is no planned legislation I know about to do this."
As the controversy continued, Michael Geoghegan and other members of the HSBC board will attempt to head off any criticism about their compensation as the bank's worsening finances are laid bare. Geoghegan is paid a £1m salary and, in 2007, received a bonus of £1.9m.
Executives of the bank based in Hong Kong, which has fared better in the economic crisis, are thought to be likely to take their entitlements.
HSBC, which is expected to slash its dividend and close the most troublesome of its US businesses, is also thought to be preparing to outline a bonus structure that would require bigger parts of any bonuses to be deferred over a number of years.
Until now, HSBC had been one of the few leading banks in the developed world not to raise fresh funds, and is already one of the best capitalised. It will aim to raise £12bn-£13bn with no help from the taxpayer through a rights issue to its existing shareholders, guaranteed by the investment banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Cazenove.