UK institutional investors on Thursday launched a revolt over pay packages for chief executives of recession-struck FTSE 250 companies.
SIG, the supplier of insulation and building materials, saw its remuneration report voted down by a margin of 67 per cent to 33 per cent following a decision to increase the basic salary of its chief executive, Chris Davies, from £465,000 ($679,000) to £532,000.
Cookson Group, the supplier of ceramic moulds used in the steel industry, had its remuneration report passed by the narrowest of margins, winning the support of just under 51 per cent of its shareholders, compared with a vote of 32 per cent against.
The remainder of Cookson shareholders chose to abstain in a clash over a recalibrated bonus scheme for Nick Salmon, chief executive, agreed following a £241m rights issue last year.
Both companies insisted they had consulted widely over changes to executive pay plans.
Les Tench, chairman of SIG, said on Thursday he had held extensive talks with shareholders in the weeks before its annual meeting.
Though one shareholder activist group, Pirc, recommended that shareholders back the remuneration report, arguing its incentive scheme was “demanding” and vesting requirements “tough”, the Association of British Insurers had “red-topped” SIG, indicating serious concerns.
On Thursday an ABI spokesperson said: “This sends a clear signal over the care needed by companies when setting base pay.”
A Cookson representative said it had consulted earlier this year with its main shareholders, including Standard Life, AXA, Lloyds Banking Group, BlackRock, Legal & General and Aegon. At that stage, “a large majority indicated their support for changes”, which lifted Mr Salmon’s potential bonus from 100 to 150 per cent of basic salary if performance targets were met.
But a top Cookson shareholder said: “The company did speak with shareholders, after which they should have anticipated the high level of votes against.”
Pirc opposed Cookson’s remuneration report, while the ABI “amber-topped” the pay proposals, which means considered judgment is required by shareholders when voting.
Mr Salmon’s total remuneration was £760,000 in 2009, of which £517,000 was basic salary.
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