It's springtime, but executives may have felt a chill in the air as they headed off to their companies' AGMs this morning.
Hermes Investment Management has said that it opposes the appointment of former chief executive Michael Dobson to the role of chairman at Schroders, remarking that such a move would undermine corporate governance.
Although the measure was ultimately approved by shareholders, 14.9 per cent voted against the proposition.
"The company notes that more than 85 per cent of shareholders who voted supported the re-election of Michael Dobson," said Philip Howard, senior independent director at Schroders. "As I have explained previously, the board, before proposing Mr Dobson as chairman, consulted with its major shareholders and this engagement will continue. The board expects to appoint two new independent non-executive directors by the end of this year at which time the board will comprise a majority of independent directors."
Schroders was not the only big name in Hermes' firing line, as it has also recommended voting against the pay awards at Tullow Oil and Shire, and the remuneration policy at Weir Group, which both also hosted their AGMs today.
Shareholders at Weir took note, with just 27.6 per cent voting in favour of the policy. The rejection of the policy means that engineering company's remuneration committee will not be able to enforce its reward plans for executives.
Meanwhile, executives at Shire narrowly avoided defeat on pay, after 50.6 per cent of shareholders voted in favour of the remuneration report.
CRH also found its pay policies under scrutiny from shareholders. Although the directors' remuneration report was passed with little fuss, gaining 91.4 per cent of the vote, its remuneration policy narrowly scraped through, gaining approval from just 59.2 per cent.
However, Hermes failed to muster votes at Tullow, where just 9.3 per cent voted against the renumeration report.
Banking giant Barclays is also meeting today. Perhaps wary of shareholder sentiment, chairman John McFarlane has already thanked shareholders for their patience during the recent turnaround period.
Shareholders approved all of the resolutions at the bank's AGM, with 93.6 per cent voting for the remuneration report.
Meanwhile, Royal London Asset Management has revealed that it will be voting down the annual remuneration report at Standard Chartered's AGM on 4 May, although it will be giving its approval to the binding pay policy.
Royal London has also said it will vote against the remuneration report at Reckitt Benckiser, which will be hosting its AGM on 5 May.
"This year has seen a ‘spring of discontent’ for a number of major British companies, with shareholders demonstrating their unhappiness at the remuneration packages awarded to top executives last year at a time when company performance was lacklustre at best," said Ashley Hamilton Claxton, corporate governance manager at Royal London Asset Management.
It's not all doom and gloom for the boardroom, as Royal London has said it will be voting in favour of the remuneration report at Aviva, remarking that it was pleased to see that the insurer had cut its LTIP grant.
"This is a clear example of a board being sympathetic to both the views of investors and the public mood," said Hamilton Claxton. "We encourage more companies to follow Aviva's example."