Julius Bär shareholders reject 'excessive' pay
Shareholders in Swiss private bank Julius Bär have flatly rejected the bank's plan for executive compensation in a non-binding vote, amid outrage over excessive pay packages.
The surprise vote on Wednesday, which its supporters said should be seen as a "warning signal to businesses", came just a month after Swiss voters massively came out in favour of a new law limiting executive pay and bonuses.
Nearly 64 percent of Julius Baer shareholders voted against the bank's remuneration report, which among other things called for handing 15.2 million francs to senior management this year, including 6.6 million francs ($7.1 million) to its chief executive Boris Collardi.
Julius Baer, which published the vote results on its website, had planned to sweeten Collardi's 927,200-franc annual salary with an 800,000-franc bonus linked to the bank's purchase of Merrill Lynch's wealth management business, along with a large stash of shares.
In a statement, the bank meanwhile stressed that all the other items up for review at its general assembly in Zurich Wednesday had been adopted, adding that its board would take the necessary measures to ensure that its next remuneration report would pass muster.
Several shareholder organisations had urged their members to vote against the 2012 report, including the Ethos foundation, which represents more than 100 institutional investors.
"We think the remuneration system lacks transparency and is poorly structured," its spokesman told AFP.
"In addition, the compensation to the chief executive is excessive in light of the company's size and his success," he added.
Roby Tschopp, who heads the Actares shareholder association, also raised questions about Collardi's high pay, and also the bonus he received for the Merill Lynch unit acquisition.
"We think that the extra work put into taking over Merrill Lynch's activities does not justify such a bonus," he told AFP.
He added that he was "a bit surprised" by the results of the vote, stressing that other companies should really see it as a warning sign.
While Wednesday's vote was non-binding, all Swiss companies listed on the Swiss stock exchange will soon be required to hand the power to set executive pay over to their shareholders.
On March 3rd, just over two-thirds of Swiss voters cast their ballots to rein in executive pay with a new law that would among other things ban acquisition-linked bonuses.