* New law proposed to curb executive bonuses
* Axa boss says bonuses should not be sole focus
(Adds background, detail)
PARIS, March 23 France will introduce a law to
limit executive bonuses in the form of stock options or shares
because businesses have failed to accept a voluntary accord, the
spokesman for the ruling UMP party said on Monday.
Bosses at French bank Societe Generale decided this weekend
to renounce stock options they had awarded themselves following
an outcry over excessive rewards in times of financial meltdown.
But employers federation MEDEF has resisted a demand by
President Nicolas Sarkozy to introduce a general code of conduct
to regulate executive pay.
Under pressure from the unions over their handling of
economic crisis, Sarkozy's allies said they would forge ahead
and impose their own restrictions on business leaders.
"MEDEF does not want to react ... Since there is neither the
desire nor the means, we will give them the means and we will
draw up a law," Frederic Lefebvre, spokesman for the
centre-right UMP, told French television.
"I think we can define the main points very quickly."
He said bosses should not be able to raise their bonuses
unless those of other employees were also increased.
From Europe to the United States, executive bonuses at firms
that were bailed out by taxpayers have become a lightning rod
for anger over the economic slump.
Last week, between 1.2 million and 3 million people took to
the streets of France, demanding more help for struggling
workers and asking the government to curb executive rewards.
Societe Generale's decision to award hundreds of thousands
of stock options to four top executives while receiving state
aid has sparked particular outrage.
French banks received 10.5 billion euros ($14.3 billion) in
crisis aid in 2008, with SocGen taking 1.7 billion euros.
MEDEF has said it cannot impose curbs on employers, but is
asking members to act responsibly.
The association's president, Laurence Parisot, will appear
before parliament's legal committee in a hearing on Wednesday as
politicians debate if and how executive pay should be
Proposals have ranged from raising taxes on stock options to
placing a cap on executive salaries and temporarily banning
bonuses and options.
However, some business leaders say they risk being made
scapegoats for the downturn.
"It would be a bit naive to believe that we can resolve the
crisis by focusing only on the issue of compensation," Henri de
Castries, chief executive of insurer Axa, told French radio.
Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said on Sunday the
government would use the legal route if a voluntary agreement
with employers could not be reached.
"We are looking into stock options and free shares,"
newspaper Le Figaro quoted a source close to the situation as
saying on Monday.
(Reporting by Thierry Leveque and Sophie Hardach; Editing by