Pirc targets excessive pay at Compass and Paragon

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The Independent Online

While the focus remains on bankers, outlandish rewards still proliferate in Britain's boardrooms. Yesterday Pirc, which advises some of Britain's top pension funds on how to vote at annual meetings, lambasted the caterer Compass and the lender Paragon for offering "excessive" board pay.

The organisation has been campaigning for membership of companies' pay committees to be extended beyond a cosy coterie of directors to include staff and other interests.

Pirc said it said it had called on Compass to disclose more about its directors' pay, but was rebuffed on the grounds that improving disclosure of the financial targets that bonuses were linked to was "price sensitive".

"Potential aggregate awards are excessive and combined awards made during the year amount to more than three times executives' salaries," Pirc said. "Performance conditions in use under the annual bonus scheme and [long-term incentive plan] are somewhat disclosed but information on specific targets applying to short-term and long-term awards granted during the year is lacking."

As for Paragon: "Potential aggregate awards are excessive in our view and awards actually granted during the year confirm our view. Salaries rank at the top end of the comparator group. The matching share scheme operates the same criteria of the performance share plan (PSP), although we would have welcomed the use of different criteria to widen the range of criteria used for the determination of variable pay.

"We do not approve the changes to the structure of the PSP, as we believe that long-term incentive plans should vest awards based on at least two criteria, operated concurrently.

A Compass spokesperson said its chief executive, Richard Cousins, "receives a highly competitive base salary of £910.4k" and said his total package "is heavily performance-related. Base salaries are rigorously benchmarked and reflect the role, job size and responsibility as well as individual performance and effectiveness"

A spokesperson for Paragon said: "As part of our regular contact programme with shareholders, our remuneration committee consulted fully with our main shareholders prior to setting performance targets and compensation."