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'Shareholder spring' tackles fat cats

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - 02:24

May 9 - Investors are expected to turn their guns on more leading companies as the revolt over 'fat cat' pay - dubbed the 'shareholder spring' - gathers strength. Hayley Platt reports.

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The biggest casualty yet in what is being called the 'shareholder spring' - Aviva's chief executive Andrew Moss. He resigned from the insurance firm this week after investors expressed anger about a mis-match between executive pay and corporate performance. During Moss's five year tenure shares in Aviva fell 60 percent - but Moss will still get a reported payoff of up to 1.7 million pounds. And that - says pension fund investor Cameron Rose is just not fair. SOUNDBITE: Cllr Cameron Rose, Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, saying (English): "Aviva's just not been doing as well as it might have been doing and the rewards that he was getting just did not seem right with that." There was a shareholder revolt at bookmaker William Hill on Tuesday too. But the chief executive still got his 1.2 million pound bonus because only 49.9 percent of voters objected. Gareth Hill is William Hill's Chairman. SOUNDBITE: Gareth Hill, Chairman, William Hill, saying (English): "I anticipated the difficulties because the whole remuneration, reward issue for executives is a very hot topic at the moment. But let's me clear this is not an issue of reward for failure." There is evidence that companies are listening to investors. Sly Bailey of the Trinity Mirror newspaper group and David Brennan from drugs giant AstraZeneca were both recently shoved out by shareholders. Further revolts are expected over Martin Sorrell's award for running WPP, despite his advertising agency doing well. And the upcoming annual general meetings of consumer goods firm Unilever and energy company Centrica are expected to be stormy. Catherine Howarth works for a fair pensions website. SOUNDBITE: Catherine Howarth, FairPensions.org.uk, saying (English): "A lot of companies are still trying to push through remuneration proposals which are bad news for shareholders which are excessive. So until that stops we will see robust votes. I think the critical thing will be what happens next year in terms of what companies propose." After the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico BP is used to protesters at its AGMs - they were there again last month. But they may soon be unable to ignore the shareholders inside. The UK government is being urged to make their votes binding - the days of them rubber-stamping company resolutions could soon be over. Hayley Platt, Reuters.

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'Shareholder spring' tackles fat cats

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - 02:24