August 22, 2017 / 3:38 PM / 2 years ago

Swiss shareholder revolts on the rise

ZURICH, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Shareholders in the 200 biggest listed Swiss companies have rejected 27 proposals from boards of directors this year as investors grow increasingly emboldened on issues such as executive pay, figures from advisory group Ethos showed.

The figure compares with rejections of just 14 proposals the previous year, while other plans squeaked by with relatively low approval rates of between 55 and 65 percent.

“This is a signal that shareholders are not satisfied,” Dominique Biedermann, chairman of Ethos, which advises shareholders on which way to vote on corporate resolutions, told reporters on Tuesday.

Under Swiss law, shareholders get a binding say on management pay. Ethos counted seven cases of shareholders rejecting pay proposals this year, primarily in the financial sector.

This year 6.6 percent of overall board proposals passed with fewer than 80 percent of votes, a threshold widely seen as a litmus test for investor satisfaction. This was nearly double the 2016 level.

One of the highest profile cases was Credit Suisse, where the bank’s remuneration report, which sets salaries and bonuses for top management and board of directors, won only 58 percent support.

This was even after unrest over pay packets at Switzerland’s second-biggest bank had pressured senior management, led by Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam, to take a voluntary 40 percent bonus cut.

Fund manager GAM Holding’s owners rejected bonuses for management, a novelty in Switzerland.

There was also more resistance when it came to corporate management and personalities.

Engineering group ABB and cement producer LafargeHolcim got only around 60 percent approval for the performance of company leadership, while watchmaker Swatch kept Nayla Hayek, daughter of the company founder, as chairwoman only thanks to family support. (Reporting by Paul Arnold; Writing by Michael Shields and David Holmes)

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