Letters: When a shareholder tried to curb boardroom pay

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The Independent Online

It is argued that it is up to shareholders, not some external regulator, to control the excesses of senior executive pay ("Call for transparency in executive wages", 21 November) . While this is theoretically correct the practicalities for the vast numbers of shareholders to exercise their democratic rights are another matter entirely.

I hold a portfolio of shares through a nominee account with a major private client stockbroker and they recently introduced an online system for clients to indicate how they wanted votes cast on their holdings at general meetings.

This seemed a worthy development until I investigated the practicalities of obtaining the information upon which to make a judgement about the issues to be voted on.

First you need to know when the voting period is open for every company in which you are interested. The company will generally not register your "nominee interest" and alert you about the resolutions proposed, so I would need to set up an independent alert service for the 66 different shareholdings in the portfolio.

Once aware of an alert, it is then necessary to locate a website to see the annual report and proposed resolutions for each holding, digest the detail and decide to vote for or against – a significant task. Finally, I must return to my stockbroker's website to indicate my voting preference for them to exercise a vote on my behalf.

I simply do not have the time or inclination to obtain all the information necessary to exercise my shareholder's rights and I doubt many others would either.

Control over senior executive pay clearly remains firmly in the hands of large institutional investors who themselves cream off significant sums of ordinary people's savings to cover charges which includes their own senior directors' remuneration. A small but powerful group of executives can look after each other's interests in the bad times as well as the good.

Trevor J Nicholls

Petersfield, Hampshire

Having started my business in 1993, for the first 10 years I was the lowest-paid employee of the company. I risked my own money and, with the help of my wife and a great team around me, I am finally starting to enjoy the fruits of my labour.

While not in the of stratospheric income league of chairmen of large plcs (I wish!), I object to a highly paid Quango monitoring my pay, while never having to take any of the risks I did when I started.

It's time people stopped complaining about successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, and supported us, because it is "our lot" that initially took the risks and now provide jobs and security for this country.

Fred Crook

The Courier Company (UK) Ltd

Milton Keynes

Troubled history of the euro

David Cameron and some of his advisers would do well to take a few history lessons. The European Coal and Steel Community (forerunner of the EU) was begun after the Second World War by far-sighted politicians whose wish was that never again should the nations of Europe wage war on each other. Their ideal was that European nations should be united by a common goal of standing together and striving to provide a better future for all their people.

We do not want the current war of words between the teams of Cameron and Merkel to grow more bitter and draw in others. We do not want a disintegration of Europe which will see Greek, Italian, Spanish and, yes, maybe even British currencies plummet in value while the German mark (or euro) appreciates by 20 to 30 per cent.

Who would afford those German cars and white goods? Without these sales Germany would be faced again with massive unemployment and we'd see a return to a situation which led to war.

In any nation, the richer areas subsidise the poorer – there are examples of this within the UK and always have been. So it must be in Europe; but all must play by the same rules – in welfare, employment and retirement.

D Waddington

Ringwood, Hampshire

Greeks seem not to have learned the lessons of 12 years of disastrous euro membership and inexplicably wish to remain within the system that is destroying them. And that despite the fact that the eurozone cannot even save itself, never mind Greece. At every suggestion of rescue measures the Germans have said Nein.

Greece has lost over 40 per cent in competitiveness against the German economy since joining the euro. A hotel room in Turkey costs half of a Greek hotel room. Such imbalances cannot be solved inside the euro without massive unemployment and politically impossible wage cuts. Only a return to the drachma will restore competitiveness.

Rodney Atkinson

Stocksfield, Northumberland

Buses in Israel for Jews and Arabs

Shoshana Tunk's letter on her experiences of buses in Israel (18 October) is by her own admission from the intifada period of 10 years ago, when everyone was terrified by the daily bombing of buses in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by Arab terrorists, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.

Both before that period and since, Arabs and Jews sit side by side on buses and trains in Israel as well as in restaurants, cinemas, hospitals and medical surgeries. It is only in the West Bank, an area that almost daily sees attacks on Jews that Israelis still feel the need for their own transportation.

Since hundreds of unrepentant terrorists have now been released in the West Bank as part of the recent Shalit exchange, the situation is even more dangerous. If Arabs in the West Bank do not like it, they only have to stop murdering Jews and the situation will be normalised, as indeed it was before the intifada.

Alan Halibard

Bet Shemesh, Israel

Shoshana Tunk complains of segregation in "Israel" by "Arab terrorists", omitting to say that East Talpiot is an illegal settlement established in south eastern Jerusalem in 1973, after the 1967 invasion of the West Bank.

According to the Geneva Convention, the building of colonies is a war crime, involving the confiscation of land from the indigenous population and the demolition of properties. Many thousands of Palestinians have been killed, maimed or imprisoned in the process but when they dare use weapons, they become "terrorists".

C Cameron


Through the night to Scotland

How sad that the future of the Scottish Sleeper may be under threat (Simon Calder, 21 November). This train is truly a national treasure, for all the reasons Mr Calder sets out, and must be retained. Sure, it is expensive to run, but widening the wretched M25 is costly too.

Rail patronage is increasing – passenger numbers for the first nine months of 2011 were 6 per cent up on the same period last year. So there is good reason for the Scottish Sleeper to be revamped in order to capitalise on the surge.

Anthony Walker

Belmont, Durham

When my son was just 11 years old he travelled, unaccompanied, on the sleeper from Euston to Aberdeen. His first-class cabin was a wonder, with its various nooks and crannies, as was his complimentary travel pack.

At just gone midnight he called to inform me that he had just crossed the "sea"'. Clearly his bed was comfortable as he had to be loudly roused by the porter when those meeting him failed to locate him. It would be sad to see this service go.

Joy Wharton

Wouldham, Kent

Neutrinos in the fifth dimension?

David Stone (letter, 22 November) may well be correct that the story about neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light might be evidence for neutrinos not having mass rather than a breach of the cosmic speed limit postulated by Einstein.

An alternative explanation for this apparent challenge to previously well-established scientific theory is that our three-dimensional (or four-dimensional according to special relativity) universe is embedded in a higher dimensional reality.

Consider the analogy of the surface of a sphere (two-dimensional). If everything were restricted to that surface except for "neutrinos", which can move across the third dimension (interior of the sphere), then the light "speed limit" might still apply. The distance between two points on the surface of the sphere is longer than this "short cut" and this would give the impression that the "neutrinos" have exceeded the speed limit.

Perhaps this approach might explain the observations without needing to abandon what had appeared to be a fundamental law of nature.

Martin D Stern

Senior Lecturer in Mathematics (retired), Manchester Metropolitan University

Who is most like the Germans?

Jason Robertson is right to point out that the English and the Germans are more like each other than any other peoples in Europe (letter, 21 November). My old professor, a Welshman to his core, stated that the main difference was that being so close to, and interbreeding with, the Irish had given the English an appreciation of humour which our Teutonic brothers and sisters had yet to master.

Colin Burke


Jason Robertson maintains that "the English and Germans are more like each other than any other peoples in Europe". May I suggest that, despite the SNP administration at Holyrood, the Scots (or Welsh or Irish) are actually more like the English?

Dave Daniel


Watching you

I am currently in hospital, and your report "What's on hospital TV? Non-stop Lansley" (22 November) reminded me of this passage: "The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely" – George Orwell, 1984.

Dr Ewan Jeffrey



David Ashton (letter, 22 November) is wrong. "Not all" means "some" not "most". The implication of what Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote is therefore that some black and mixed-race young people convicted of rioting recently were innocent and were therefore falsely convicted. That is not surprising. It is inevitable that every legal system will suffer from occasional miscarriages and nothing sinister can be deduced from them.

Marty Jonathans

Altrincham, Greater Manchester

Bilbo's success

How curious that Ben Walsh (Arts, 21 November) should think of The Hobbit as a prequel. Tolkien only wrote The Lord of the Rings because The Hobbit had been such a success. If The Hobbit hadn't been written, or had bombed when published, there would never have been the sequel on which to base the film of The Lord of the Rings.

Roger Chapman

Keighley, West Yorkshire