Off with his payout! François Hollande tells Air France boss Pierre-Henri Gourgeon to take cut


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The French Finance Minister has personally asked the former head of Air France-KLM to return a €400,000 (£320,000) payout, as the Socialist government tries to rein in executive pay.

The money, paid as compensation for a non-compete clause in the executive's contract, "doesn't go in the direction of decency", Pierre Moscovici told France Inter radio.

In a symbolic show of its opposition, the French Government, which holds a 15.9 per cent stake in the Franco-Dutch carrier, said it would vote against the payment at the airline's annual meeting. Led by the Socialist leader François Hollande, the government said the payment to Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, who resigned as chief executive in October, was particularly egregious since the carrier, which is planning cuts as it deals with high fuel costs and tough competition, has posted losses.

Putting a spotlight on the payment – even if the no-vote is only symbolic – is all part of President Hollande's charge to reduce what he calls exorbitant executive salaries. Mr Moscovici said he would unveil a plan to force companies, in which the state was the majority shareholder, to ensure the highest salary was not more than 20 times the lowest.

He said chief executive of the French utility EDF, Henri Proglio, had already agreed to implement the rule. Mr Proglio doesn't have much of a choice: the state owns 84 per cent of EDF's shares. For other companies, in which the state is a minority shareholder, officials have said state representatives will use their powers of persuasion.

The Finance Ministry said the French government held a significant stake in about a dozen companies, but was a majority shareholder in only two.