Royal Dutch Shell struck a blow for gender equality in the boardroom on Friday when Jessica Uhl formally took up her new job as chief financial officer. But a €2.5m “golden goodbye” for the outgoing Simon Henry attracted less welcome scrutiny of its remuneration policy.
Mr Henry, who is leaving the Anglo-Dutch energy group after 34 years and seven as CFO, will receive a gross payment of €2.29m for “loss of office” and a further £195,000 (€223,285) of regular salary to cover a three-month period to the end of June when he will remain available “to assist with the transition”.
His departure at the age of 55 was portrayed as a retirement when it was announced in December, though some industry observers viewed it as a sacrifice to shareholders critical of Shell’s £35bn takeover of BG Group during the depths of the oil market downturn.
In his final annual results presentation last month, he argued that rising cash flow and falling debt showed that the controversial BG deal was beginning to pay off. A spate of big ticket disposals, including Thursday’s $7.5bn sale of oil sand assets in Canada, has also strengthened the balance sheet inherited by Ms Uhl, an American who joined Shell in 2004 after spells with Enron and Citibank.
None of this is likely to satisfy critics of Mr Henry’s pay-off. Stefan Stern, director of the High Pay Centre, which monitors boardroom pay, told the FT that the terms of Mr Henry’s departure were “symptomatic of the tired thinking and inertia” among corporate remuneration committees. “There is the golden hello, the golden handcuffs and the golden parachute.”
Shell declined to comment.