Shareholder spring in action? FTSE 100 bosses' pay has dropped after shareholder scrutiny

Hayley Kirton
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Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of W
Lord Wolfson's pay has fallen after a "challenging" year

Chief executive pay at some of the UK's largest companies has fallen this year, as firms respond to investor pressure over remuneration packages seen as excessive.

Analysis of the first 40 blue-chip firms to publish remuneration reports in 2017, released this morning, found median total pay for chief executives slid from £4.3m to £4.1m.

The drop was more pronounced in the upper quartile of highest-paid bosses, where total pay fell 13 per cent from £6.6m to £5.7m.

Read more: Credit Suisse set for shareholder pressure on pay despite slashing bonuses

The report, published by PwC, said that 42.5 per cent of executives received no salary increase this year.

Tom Gosling, head of reward at PwC, said: "What this season shows is that we've got a pretty good system of shareholder votes at the moment and, if shareholders choose to exercise the rights that they've got, they can get what they want."

The research comes just as AGM season enters full swing. Among the companies facing potential showdowns next week are Irish pharma giant Shire, banking behemoth HSBC and consumer goods conglomerate Unilever.

Read more: The world's largest sovereign wealth fund calls for exec pay shake-up

Some companies have already drastically slashed pay. Earlier this week, retailer Next revealed chief executive Lord Wolfson's total pay was cut by 55 per cent from £4.3m to £1.8m after a "challenging" year.

And, in January, tobacco firm Imperial Brands backed down over plans which could have increased chief executive Alison Cooper’s pay by up to £3m after shareholders indicated they would not give the policy their blessing.

Some big name shareholders have cautioned they are not afraid to fight back against generous rewards when they were not matched by performance. Larry Fink, chief exec of Blackrock, warned in January the asset manager would be exercising its "right to vote against incumbent directors or misaligned executive compensation".

Read more: MPs have urged Theresa May to crack down on boardroom pay

Legal & General Investment Management, one of UK's biggest asset managers, revealed earlier this month it had shot down at least one resolution at 23 per cent of UK companies in 2016, up from 18 per cent in 2015.

Meanwhile, Anglo American, which holds its AGM on Monday, has already provoked a small amount of investor ire.

Ashley Hamilton Claxton, corporate governance manager at Royal London Asset Management, said yesterday it would be voting against the miner's pay report, as "earnings targets were not particularly challenging this year", although added the investor would be supporting the pay policy in a separate vote.

Read more: UK firms set for "particularly significant" year on shareholder pay votes

Politicians have also been taking aim at top dog pay in recent months. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has ran a consultation into corporate governance, including executive pay, and is currently reviewing the feedback.

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