Top chief executives have a "narcissistic obsession" with how much they are paid, a former UK business secretary has claimed.
Rocketing pay and perks for company bosses in the face of widespread austerity has fuelled public anger.
But Vince Cable said even at the height of the 2008 financial crash, enormous amounts of time were spent debating with bank chiefs about their salaries.
The Liberal Democrat former UK cabinet minister called for a requirement on companies to consult their workers on executive pay.
Speaking at a ResPublica event on corporate governance, he said: "The other thing that struck me, and I found actually quite offensive in many ways, was the utter narcissistic obsession with pay among the top chief executives.
"At the height of the banking crisis we devoted enormous amounts of time to debating with the chief executives of some of our banks how much they could be paid.
"They were obsessed by the subject.
"You would get reports back from the chairman that all of their conversations with their chief execs were about their pay.
"It is very, very debilitating this obsession with benchmarking."
Cable also called for a "fresh look" at reforms to curb short-termism in the business world.
He said the British coalition government had made a decision that "in retrospect might not have been very helpful" to reform capital gains tax.
He added: "The other issue which we looked at and dismissed and is probably worth having fresh look at is whether we should have different classes for shareholders, in that long-term investors can have greater voting rights."