Laws that give shareholders a greater say over manager pay appear to be having an impact on Swiss companies, according to pension fund advisory firm Ethos Foundation. While overall remuneration for bosses rose 2% last year, the biggest firms have cut back on lavish bonuses.
The average compensation for chief executives at the biggest 20 Swiss companies last year was CHF7.2 million ($7.4 million), down from CHF8.2 million in 2014. For chairmen it was CHF2.4 million (CHF2.5 million in 2014). Bonuses for executives in large firms fell as the size of their base salary increased.
Furthermore, most companies are sticking to a recommended self-regulation principle that states that bonuses should be no more than three times base salaries.
Ethos, which promotes sustainable investing among its 200 pension fund members, said the change in pay had been influenced by the so-called Minder regulations that came into effect in 2014external link.
In addition to banning bonuses that used to be paid to managers upon joining and leaving firms, the “anti-fat cat” initiative gave shareholders a binding vote on remuneration packages.
However, Ethos believes that more must be done to protect smaller shareholders in particular from corporate excess. The investment advisor is concerned that not all companies publish complete and transparent pay policies and it does not like the fact that in Switzerland not all shares are equal.
Some shares come with greater voting rights than others, leading to imbalances between shareholders. Ethos is currently fighting the Burkard family owners of chemicals company Sika, who want to sell their majority voting share despite owning a much smaller percentage of the firm’s capital.
In future, the transfer of such vote-heavy shares should be approved by two-thirds of all shareholders, Ethos demands.