Aviva is latest firm hit by 'shareholder spring' as chief executive quits

 

The so-called "shareholder spring" that has rocked boardrooms over recent days has been driven by anger that huge salaries and even bigger bonuses are out of kilter with falling share prices and pressure on profits.

Business Secretary Vince Cable and his department have finished a consultation on binding shareholder votes, which would mean pay deals would require the support of 75 per cent of votes, and will update on progress next month.

Alan MacDougall, managing director of Pensions and Investment Research Consultants (Pirc), has backed the proposals and said they should be brought into effect.

He said "investors' powers are relatively limited" and shareholders "must have the right tools to do the job".

Here we look at companies that have been chastised by their shareholders and those which will come under pressure in the weeks ahead:

Barclays

The banking giant was stung when nearly a third of shareholder votes failed to back its pay awards. Barclays revealed that 32 per cent of investors voted against or withheld votes for the bank's pay report, while 24 per cent failed to back remuneration committee chairman Alison Carnwath. Chief executive Bob Diamond sparked anger among shareholders when it emerged he would receive £17.7 million in salary, bonus, benefits and vested long-term share awards for 2011, despite admitting that his bank's performance was "unacceptable" in 2011. Shares are 25 per cent lower than a year ago.

Aviva

Andrew Moss, who has been chief executive since 2007, announced his immediate departure after more than half of shareholder votes failed to back the firm's remuneration report. The Oxford graduate offered to waive a near-5 per cent pay rise which would have taken his annual salary over the £1 million mark but this was not enough to appease investors, who have been hit by a 30 per cent drop in the share price in the last year.

Xstrata

Some 40 per cent of Xstrata shareholders failed to support the mining group's annual pay report, which revealed that chief executive Mick Davis could cash in shares and options worth £6 million. The miner, which has seen shares decline 23 per cent in the last year, also faced a revolt over the re-election of two directors. David Rough, a former chief investment officer at Legal & General who is now a non-executive at Xstrata, failed to win the support of almost 20 per cent of shareholders, while Glencore boss Ivan Glasenberg, who has a seat on the board, faced a 16 per cent protest vote.

Premier Foods

More than 30 per cent of shareholder votes failed to back Hovis to Mr Kipling owner Premier Foods' remuneration report last week. Premier, which saw its shares slide around 70 per cent throughout 2011, paid around £3.5 million to its executives last year, including a £1.9 million "golden hello" for new chief executive Michael Clarke when he joined eight months ago.

AstraZeneca

Chief executive David Brennan announced he will step down in June after slashing full-year profits hopes and coming under fire for not acting sooner to tackle a shortage of blockbuster drugs as patents expire. The pharmaceutical giant has seen its share price slide 10 per cent in the last 12 months.

Trinity Mirror

Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, announced she was stepping down as the group, which publishes the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and 160 local and regional newspapers, prepares to face a potential revolt over executive pay at its annual meeting on Thursday. Trinity Mirror's share price is 90 per cent lower than when Ms Bailey took charge 10 years ago, as the group has battled declining print sales amid competition from the internet.

Centrica

The energy giant is facing a revolt at its AGM on Friday after boss Sam Laidlaw accumulated a £4.3 million pay packet at a time when corporate earnings are flat and the Big Six energy company is under attack from politicians and the public over high prices.

WPP

Advertising giant WPP's annual meeting is not being held until June 13 but anger is already brewing over the pay deal awarded to founder and chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, who took home almost £13 million in salary, bonuses and benefits in 2011.

William Hill

The Association of British Insurers (ABI), whose members control about 15 per cent of the stock market, issued an "amber top" warning on William Hill's remuneration report. The bookmaker was criticised over the pay package awarded to chief executive Ralph Topping, which includes a £1.2 million retention bonus and an 8.3 per cent salary rise. William Hill suffered a rebellion at its AGM last year over a 56% increase in Mr Topping's compensation package to £1.6 million.

Unilever

Unilever hosts its annual meeting tomorrow, and shareholders are expected to express concern over chief executive Paul Polman's 6 per cent rise in salary, taking him close to £975,000. Investors are also set to turn on a generous new long-term incentive scheme which some estimate could involve payouts of more than 400% of his salary.

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