Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No more choo-choo?

"The gravy train has got to stop," - Royal Dutch Shell investor
Shareholders voted against approving the executive pay policies of Royal Dutch Shell on Tuesday, giving the energy company a clear signal it had not done enough to address remuneration concerns that dominated proceedings at its annual meeting for a second year.
- Financial Times
In a sign that the public may finally be calling corporations to heel, several investor groups have been pressuring corporate boards on executive pay, at least in Europe, the Financial Times reports:
Xstrata suffered a stinging protest by shareholders over its pay policies on Tuesday as more than a third of votes cast on its remuneration report at its annual meeting failed to back it.

BP experienced a similar protest vote against its remuneration plan last month and pay is expected to be a contentious issue at Shell’s annual meeting this month.

“The turnout at meetings is higher, and a much higher level of votes is being cast against remuneration proposals in a number of countries, such as the Netherlands and Sweden,” says Jean-Nicolas Caprasse, head of proxy voting agency RiskMetrics European and Middle Eastern business.

Europe in recent months has seen revolts in the Netherlands (Heineken, ASML, KPN) and Sweden (Volvo, Nordea). The past few weeks have seen that mood take hold in Britain.

“Remuneration is the number one subject in the UK and Europe”, says Mr Caprasse. “One thing shareholders agree is that they don’t want to reward failure and they’ve seen a lot of failure in the past year. It has united shareholders’ focus.”

Bank of America investors last month scored a small victory by deposing Ken Lewis as CEO. Perhaps it is because the economic wreckage is worse in Europe that investors across the pond have done more to date than American shareholders. Stay tuned.

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