Robert Walters faced a stinging shareholder revolt at its annual meeting yesterday, with investors rejecting pay policies at the recruitment group.
Of the votes cast, nearly 44 per cent were against the remuneration report. Another 16 per cent were withheld. The revolt came after the remuneration committee decided to award bonuses of more than the set limit of 100 per cent of salary for executive directors.
"In recognition of a very successful performance during 2010 and the fact that nil bonus was paid to directors in 2009, the remuneration committee has exercised its discretion and determined that a bonus of 120 per cent of salary is appropriate for 2010," the committee said in the company's annual report for last year.
But Pirc, the corporate governance body which advises top pension funds, said that "awarding bonuses in excess of the stated limit makes a mockery of having a limit in the first place".
Pirc had also questioned targets attached to the company's executive share option scheme and its performance share plan incentive scheme, saying it did not consider them "sufficiently challenging".
Part of the vote against the remuneration report is also understood to have been motivated by the lack of shareholder consultation by the remuneration committee, which was chaired by Lady Barbara Judge until her departure at the end of April. Andrew Kemp has been appointed in her place.
Beyond pay, Pirc also published advice ahead of the annual meeting calling on shareholders to vote against non-executive director Russell Tenzer, whom it did not consider independent having "been on the board for more than nine years".
The meeting saw him re-elected with just over 50 per cent of votes cast landing in his favour. However, nearly 37 per cent were withheld and around 12.6 per cent came in against his re-election.
Robert Walters declined to comment on the votes.