James Moore: How poor-performing execs get away with it

Outlook Which one was worse? Andrew Moss and his One Aviva, Twice the Value campaign, which should have been named One Aviva, Half the Value but introduced yet another bonus scheme for the insurer's executives all the same? Or AstraZeneca's David Brennan whose bonuses sometimes seemed to be paid in inverse proportion to the group's dwindling supply of new drugs? That might be a bit of an exaggeration. But like Mr Moss, he got rich while his shareholders stayed poor.

Yet remarkably few of those shareholders actually voted against either of them when it came to their respective companies' annual meetings (4.6 per cent in Mr Moss's case, 1.6 per cent in Mr Brennan's).

Big fund managers privately say they achieved their aims by agitating privately, which led both men to quit. Why not allow them a dignified exit? Move along, nothing to see here. Trouble is, one might ask why either deserved what in effect amounts to a pat on the back (95 and 98 per cent support) for doing a rotten job.

This sort of thing is what allows executives to get away with poor performance for so long, and allows non-executive directors to sit on their hands while it happens. They know they will never personally be held to account because – as the corporate governance watchdog Pirc has noted – when push comes to shove, the City's silent assassins prefer to keep things quiet.

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