Metering British Gas perks

N

The British Gas annual meeting tomorrow could turn out to be unprecedented in UK corporate history. Trade unions and political parties are hiring coaches to transport shareholders to the meeting, while tabloid newspapers are sponsoring their own coaches and advertising planned routes so people can join them along the way.

Attention will focus in particular on a resolution sponsored by Pensions Investment Research Consultants to reverse the pay increase given to Cedric Brown, the chief executive, last ovember. He receives a basic salary of pounds 475,000 plus an annual allocation of shares worth up to 125 per cent more. If he gets his full bonus, Mr Brown can take away more than a pounds 1m a year.

The name Pirc is not likely to be recognised by the man in the street. Anne Simpson, the 37-year-old joint managing director, says the consultancy was set up in 1986 to advise trustees and investment administrators of pension funds run, mainly, by left-wing local authorities, many of them concerned about the apparent lack of ethics in the City.

Ms Simpson, an Oxford graduate and former fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, works alongside her co-managing director, Alan MacDougall, a pension fund administrator at the GLC and former director of a GLC think- tank on City matters.

"At first we were seen as going against the trend," Ms Simpson says. "The City was making a lot of money and nobody wanted to hear about corporate governance."

With the recession and several high-profile company failures, the perception has changed, she says. These days, people come from around the world to attend Pirc's annual conference at the Royal Society of Arts. "We were perhaps slightly ahead of our time, but demand for our service is growing," says Ms Simpson.

Pirc monitors compliance with corporate governance standards, ethics and environmental issues.

Ms Simpson rejects accusations levelled by British Gas that it has been unfairly singled out. She says she is quite prepared to pick on anyone, but "you can only have one major campaign a year as they are so demanding."

Pirc has a long list of completed campaigns. Examples include the 1993 attack on the industrial conglomerate,Hanson, which sought to "streamline" its annual meeting. Pirc successfully objected, claiming the plans took power away from shareholders.

Due to Pirc's efforts, Yorkshire Water was recently forced to appoint a consumer representative to its board.

The left-wing affiliations have been a problem for Pirc and several City clients refuse to allow their identities to be revealed. Others are interested in the corporate governance service Pirc provides, but are often restricted in what they do or say publicly because many of their own stockbrocking or corporate finance clients are among Pirc's targets.

Clients include the pension funds of British Rail, Cleveland County Council, Camden, Merseyside and Hackney local authorities and the city of ew York fund. City clients include BZW. Total funds under management by Pirc clients are about pounds 70bn.

Pirc is a private company, but reinvests profit and pays no dividend. Ms Simpson and Mr MacDougall get pounds 33,000 a year each. There are about 15 staff, mostly involved in research.

Whatever happens to the votes at the AGM, one thing appears certain; there has been a quantum shift of power away from the boardroom to shareholder lobby groups such as Pirc.

Companies can no longer assume that their plans will go unscrutinised.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower