A year ago this week, Stephen Hester was contemplating taking a bonus of £963,000.
The Chancellor had given his tacit approval for the award to the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland , saying, correctly, that it was up to the bank and not the Government to decide on pay issues. There were even rumours that Mr Hester and the board had threatened to quit if the Government, the 80pc shareholder, had blocked the decision.
For the avoidance of any doubt, when the award was made public a few days later, George Osborne ensured that his position was clear. "Under the arrangement we have created it has got to be up to the board to make a decision on the bonus that he receives," the Chancellor said. The position held for precisely four days. Ed Miliband, the leader of the Opposition, made hay and said that the Government had "got a completely tin ear" when it came to issues of remuneration. He demanded a vote in the House of Commons, putting David Cameron and Mr Osborne in the unenviable position of having to vote for a pay package that the average worker would take 38 years to earn.
This was smart politics and bad business. Mr Hester, feeling the public heat, agreed to give up his bonus despite the improvements at RBS (LSE: RBS.L - news) such a payment would have warranted. It was a messy and unedifying spectacle.
With the bonus season approaching once more, there is a feeling of Groundhog Day abroad in the City as the critics dust off their clubs for a fresh round of banker-bashing.
Mr Hester has already cut his losses, announcing last year that he will take no payments above his salary.
So that leaves Antonio Horta-Osorio, the chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group , which also has a significant government stake. Mr Horta-Osorio waived his own bonus last year after a two-month leave of absence due to fatigue. That was probably a sensible move.
This year, it is a very different picture. Lloyds' share price has been one of the best performers in the FTSE as the bank's strategic plan to become a conservative "vanilla" operator begins to impress investors. Poor assets have been sold, costs cut and performance on key metrics such as lending to SMEs improved.
Lloyds' share price increased by 85pc in 2012, ending the day on Friday at 53p. In a recent analyst note, UBS (Berlin: UBRA.BE - news) said: "Lloyds is clearly going to deliver rising margins, falling costs and falling provisions, which should provide a very strong upswing to profitability and EPS [earnings per share] momentum over the next few years."
For a bank only recently on its knees, this is clearly Good News that any CEO would expect to be reflected in his or her remuneration.
Indeed, the Lloyds remuneration committee could argue that Mr Horta-Osorio has earned a bonus above his salary this year. Given the performance of Lloyds, something around £2m would match the contract Mr Horta-Osorio signed when he took on the job.
Will the Lloyds CEO agree to such a deal?
I doubt it. Although he certainly believes the performance of the bank merits it, he understands that the negative headwinds are still strong. Lloyds' reputation has had a good year, so why risk it with a row about how many zeros there are on his pay cheque? The decision has already been taken to freeze the salaries of the executive committee, a move that could appear meaningless if bonuses are paid out.
There is another option and I understand that it is one being thought about seriously at the top of the bank.
The plan being considered is to link the CEO's pay to the "in-price" the Government paid when it used billions of pounds of taxpayers' money to bail out the bank.
That number is 74p-76p. The plan would be that no bonuses would be paid until that figure had been reached and maintained in a sustained fashion.
Once above that number, the Government could consider selling its stake and making a profit on its injection of cash (a moment that cannot come too soon for the Chancellor).
Given the politics that banking is unfortunately still contending with, this could be a good move. It would tie together in the public's mind the money they paid in with the money Mr Horta-Osorio takes out. Success (Other OTC: SHGR - news) for both sides would be linked.
The next year is vital for British banking. We need strong banks with strong CEOs to ensure Britain has the best chance of creating the growth we so desperately need.
The sooner we can move on from every payment to a successful banking leader being headline news, the better. This country will get nowhere by attacking rewards for success.
Like a man who bit into a beefburger only to find it contained horse meat, the chairman of Rio Tinto would be forgiven for having a sour taste in his mouth this weekend.
Jan du Plessis oversaw the departure of his chief executive, Tom Albanese, and head of strategy, Doug Ritchie both men he liked and who had given long service to the business.
In the end, there were just too many mis-steps. Investors could be persuaded, maybe, that the calamitous Alcan deal Rio Tinto paid $38bn (£24bn) at the top of the market in 2007, but later wrote down the value of its aluminium assets by $11bn was not wholly Mr Albanese's fault.
He had, after all, only been in the job 60 days when the deal was completed.
But then came Mozambique, which was completed very much on Mr Albanese's watch. Rio Tinto paid $3.6bn for mining businesses in 2011. Last week, it announced it was writing down the value of the assets by $3bn.
Not only had plans to transport coal and coke from the Mozambique mines down the Zambezi been blocked, but new technical reports received by the board recently had revealed that what was in the ground was not as good as initially thought. And therefore not as valuable.
This is a new era in mining. Gone are the days of the mega-deals as softer commodity prices put a new premium on the ability to execute operations perfectly.
Mr du Plessis, a chairman who has revealed a usefully steel core, is aware that investors will now want to see the excellent iron ore production business replicated across the company. He will also have to reassure them that political and regulatory issues in the Simandou mining project in Guinea and Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia are surmountable.
With a new man at the helm in the guise of Sam Walsh, a Rio Tinto internal appointment, Mr du Plessis will hope that there are no more bits of adulterated meat hanging around in the business.