Jessica Fino 24 May 2018 03:11pm

Shareholder revolt grows over executive pay

The number of shareholders voting against a pay resolution during annual general meetings (AGM) at FTSE 100 firms has grown three times since last year

According to Big Four firm PwC, 20% of FTSE 100 companies have received more than 20% of votes against a pay resolution, compared to 7% in 2017.

The report was based on the first 24 companies that have held their AGM so far this year.

One third of CEOs had their base salary frozen this year, compared to 42.5% last year, with a median base salary of £1,007,000 (£997,000 last year).

However, the median single figure of pay has increased by 1.7% from £4.279m to £4.351m.

Moreover, 61% of CEOs saw an increase in their total pay in 2017 compared to 2016, while 39% saw a decrease.

Tom Gosling, PwC reward and employment partner, said, “The 2018 AGM season is now in full swing and early signs are that shareholders are coming down hard on any signs of pay inflation returning. This is despite data showing no material movement in the median level of overall pay for CEOs, continued restraint on salaries, and even some emerging suggestion that pay levels may be trending down.

“Companies need to take this year’s season as a warning against returning to the ways of the past, but at the same time investors need to find a way of ensuring that fruitful innovation is encouraged, and that the good doesn’t get thrown out with the bad,” he added.

PwC also found that the Institutional Shareholder Services has nearly tripled its ‘against’ voting recommendations this year, due to concerns over perceived large bonuses compared to performance, disclosure concerns and increases in salaries or incentive opportunity.

Shareholder revolts have occurred in several UK companies during the last few months. Back in March, 35.8% of Unilever shareholders voted against approving the new directors’ remuneration policy.

More recently, 25.2% of Shell shareholders voted against their directors’ remuneration.

A study by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association found in January that executive pay awards remain the most controversial aspect of corporate governance among the FTSE 350. In 2017, for example, 49 of the 117 resolutions (42%) attracting significant dissent related to remuneration.