James Moore: Rule-breaking Bellway must be voted down

  • @TheIndyBusiness

Outlook Compared with what the Americans say StanChart has been up to, Bellway's sins seem rather small by comparison. All the builder has done is drive a coach and horses through the UK's Combined Code on Corporate Governance.

Yesterday it announced that John Watson, the current chief executive and 34-year veteran of the company will be taking over as chairman. That this violates the code on just about every level seems to have passed the company by. The change was simply presented in its trading statement as a fait accompli.

Of course, companies are allowed to deviate from the code's provisions if they provide an explanation. Still waiting for that.

Bellway has form on this front. It was losing votes on its remuneration report before voting "no" became fashionable among the fund management community during the Shareholder Spring. That's quite an achievement. Before that, it usually took a two-fingered salute from the chairman of the remuneration committee to get an institutional investor to so much as abstain.

There are good reasons for companies having independent chairmen (or women), which Mr Watson is not. They should, in theory, bring fresh, external perspectives to companies as well as providing objective oversight of chief executives and boards. That's not going to happen at Bellway.

If institutional investors have any understanding of the concept of "fiduciary duty", they should now act in their clients' and in Bellway's best interests by voting down Mr Watson's appointment. The company's next annual meeting should be an interesting one.