Following the departure of Bob Diamond this week, Barclays shareholders have become the latest group to demand large scale revisions to the company’s investment banking division.
This follows closely on the heels of the rejection of Sir Martin Sorrell’s pay packet. His £13million deal was recently kicked out by some 60 per cent of a shareholder vote and he is the latest blue-chip boss to suffer pay packet protests following similar moves at Aviva, Cairn Energy, Pendragon and Trinity Mirror.
Of course, Mr Diamond himself has not long ago been the subject of salary scrutiny. This issue won’t go away and there are bound to be more to come, but at some point UK PLC will have to take some learning from this and surely that must start with greater checks and balances.
Salary is, of course, one of the taboo subjects of British polite society and one never normally discussed so publicly. For business leaders it comes with the territory, but few will have foreseen a situation where their remuneration packages would be pored over so publicly.
The rights and wrongs of corporate leadership performance and value is a bigger topic in itself, but what must be recognised in future is that these situations should not be allowed to develop to a point where shareholders feel so dissatisfied that they have no other recourse but to vote no.
In many ways it is a case of nose cutting and face spite-ing for all concerned. Protracted and public dissention over executive performance and pay does no-one any good and badly impacts the reputation of the organisation concerned.
To counter this, the role of the non-executive directors and other advisors – particularly external – need to be beefed-up and advice taken strongly. They need to be prepared to take a strong stance and use a truly detached viewpoint as to whether pay increases are palatable set against economic climates or the state of corporate performance.
Those deciding remuneration packages need to think whether an extra million to a high profile CEO is worth risking against the wrath of a dissatisfied shareholder base who feel their needs are being rail-roaded.
What costs more in the long run? It will be fascinating to see how many CEOs are prepared to brazenly go head-to-head with their investors in such a public manner again. Will lessons be learned from the corporate revolution of 2012? Hope springs eternal.