Eight in ten FTSE 100 chairmen oppose Higgs

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The Independent Online

The Government will come under fresh pressure today to water down the Higgs report on boardroom reform after a poll of Britain's biggest companies revealed overwhelming hostility to some of its key recommendations.

The Government will come under fresh pressure today to water down the Higgs report on boardroom reform after a poll of Britain's biggest companies revealed overwhelming hostility to some of its key recommendations.

The poll, carried out by the CBI, showed that eight in 10 chairmen of FTSE 100 companies objected to the extra powers for senior non-executive directors proposed by Higgs. An even bigger majority of almost nine in 10 objected to a company's nominations board being headed by an independent director rather than the chairman.

Digby Jones, the director general of the CBI, warned that the proposals as they stood threatened to set up a "divisive channel of communications with shareholders" and make it more difficult for company chairmen to run effective, unified boards.

The findings of the poll, which elicited more than 60 formal responses, bear out anecdotal evidence indicating a strong undercurrent of unhappiness with Higgs among leading business figures such as Lord Marshall of Knightsbrigde, Dick Giordano and Sir Nigel Rudd.

The proposals, drawn up by the former investment banker Derek Higgs had been due to be incorporated into the Combined Code of corporate governance this July with the Government's blessing.

It is now certain that some of the more controversial recommendations will be modified.

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