Revolt over boardroom pay gains momentum

  • @mrjamesashton

Anger over boardroom pay will explode again this week as further investor rebellions demonstrate the "shareholder spring" of unrest continues.

Cookson, the FTSE 250 engineering group, and online gaming firm 888 are in the firing line. Both companies are braced for votes against their pay policies when they stage annual meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.

Several bigger firms are fighting a rearguard action against investor concerns over how much they have awarded bosses. HSBC has begun consulting shareholders to allay worries over the near-£8m pay package handed to chief executive Stuart Gulliver.

And WPP, the advertising giant, has gone on the defensive over boss Sir Martin Sorrell's near-£13m pay deal.

The shareholder spring has so far claimed the scalps of bosses at Aviva, Britain's largest insurance company, drugs giant AstraZeneca and Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror. Pendragon, the car dealer, was also stung by a revolt last week.

At Cookson, chief executive Nick Salmon is under fire for a pay plan that handed him £7m despite shares in the firm, which makes parts for gadgets such as the iPad, underperforming.

Over at 888, the flashpoint is a generous bonus awarded to Aviad Kobrine, the finance director. The Association of British Insurers has issued "red top" warnings to its members on both of the companies, flagging that they should give consideration to voting against the pay reports.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who is pressing for the investor vote on boardroom pay to be made binding, also wants companies to disclose more information about their use of remuneration consultants who advise on how to craft pay deals and performance targets. Some investors believe firms such as Towers Watson, which advised Barclays on boss Bob Diamond's package, should be regulated by the Financial Reporting Council.

Insurer RSA, owner of the More Than brand, and gas explorer BG also hold their annual shareholder meetings this week.