Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shareholder Spring: Employee reps to stop crony capitalism

I was astonished to read in today's Evening Standard (of all papers) that its City Editor, James Ashton, supported as the only "surefire way for any board to keep in touch with reality" over executive pay, is to appoint employee representatives to the
board "to keep them honest".

The background to this is the revolts by shareholders (or rather asset managers not by and large the actual share owners) at Company Annual General Meetings (AGM) over excessive and unearned top executive pay. Yesterday the boss of insurance giant Aviva was forced to resign after his pay package was rejected at its AGM. So were the bosses of drugs giant AstraZeneca and Trinty Mirror. Tomorrow apparently the British Gas Centrica CEO is also in big trouble.
At a pension conference recently on executive pay I asked Government Cabinet minster Vince Cable why it was thought a good thing that employee representatives were legally required to make up to 50% of the trustee board of a company pension fund, making decisions that could make or break the organisation, yet there was no requirement to have even one such rep on the same company remuneration committee? He claimed to support the principle of employee reps but that the role of a pension trustee was very different to being on a company remuneration committee (which is completely rubbish not least since many employer reps on pension schemes also sit on you know what committees!)

I must admit to agreeing with James Ashton's conclusion that the employee representation "model has been proved to work elsewhere in Europe. What better way for the chairman to keep in touch with the shopfloor than to have the shopfloor turn up in his boardroom once a month? It could make for some uncomfortable meetings".

Update: I'll post on the campaign by Fair Pensions on how ordinary people can take action against executive High Pay soon.
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