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BlackRock set to vote against RemCo Chairs

Investment giant, BlackRock, has indicated it will be toughening its stance on executive pay after giving evidence to the House of Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee. In future it will now hold remuneration committee chairmen to account for the decisions they have made; a move which Manifest recommended to the Committee at the previous session.

Amra Balic, managing director, head of BlackRock’s EMEA Investment Stewardship team, said if there was a disconnect between a company’s executive pay and the performance of a company going forward BlackRock would be voting against the re-election of remuneration committee chairman.

Iain Wright MP,Chairman of BEIS Select Committee

Iain Wright MP,Chairman of BEIS Select Committee

Sir John Hood chairman of the remuneration committee at advertising and market giant, WPP, defended the high total remuneration oAlthough the remuneration report vote passed at the AGM in June, there was 33.5% dissent.

“Five year schemes can create anomolies”

Hood said these high figures reflected a previous five year long term incentive plan which was passed by shareholders in 2009 but then disapproved in  2012 as shareholders saw it was too generous and ended then. However, the payouts from this scheme had continued and would do so until 2017. After that payouts from a less generous scheme would be seen.He added: “The results of five year schemes can create anomalies as we have just seen. To the extent that we changed that scheme in 2013 we will not see the results of that until we publish results for the 2017 financial year, that will be in 2018. So a time lag and there’s nothing that can be done about that because if we do want to have long term measures of value creation in our incentive schemes we are going to have to accept that where designs are not approved at any stage down the track by institutional investors there we be a hang over.”

Jan du Plessis, chairman of the mining company Rio Tinto, was asked about executives receiving bonus payments for safety when they were not the employees actually taking the risks. He said that improving safety and bringing down the numbers of accidents was a key concern for the board. He indicated that safety was the first thing that was discussed at board meetings.

Both those representing companies emphasised the complexity of their global businesses and the scale of their operations as reasons for rising pay. Hood also indicated that there is a scarcity of talent within the services industry which pushes up pay for all executives.

Charlotte Villiers, professor of company law and corporate governance, at the University of Bristol believed that the conventional approach towards executive pay that concentrated solely on the interests of shareholders was part of the problem of rising rates of pay and short-termism. She believes that these are societal issues and employees were among the stakeholders ignored by this approach.

What do you think?