Critics question independence of WPP’s Rosen

 
David Hellier
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PIRC, the shareholder advisory group that is urging investors to vote against Sir Martin Sorrell’s £12.9m pay deal, yesterday questioned the independence of Jeffrey Rosen, the chair of the company’s compensation committee.

Rosen, who joined the WPP board in 2004, was earlier a bank adviser to the group when he was at Wasserstein Perella. He advised WPP on the group’s financial restructuring in 1992.

Pirc last night queried his independence to the group that once paid his firm substantial fees.

One City banker said: “You can’t expect somebody who has been given those early bonuses and fees to take a strong line years later against the person who gave him all that work.”

However, WPP said it viewed Rosen as quite clearly independent and added that he had not advised WPP on anything for 20 years. Lazard, where Rosen is now affiliated, has never advised WPP, the group’s spokesman said. The independence of the company’s board is crucial to WPP’s argument about Sir Martin’s proposed pay increase, which is causing controversy amongst investors and corporate governance lobbyists.

In a robust defence of his own pay deal, Sir Martin wrote earlier this week in the Financial Times that the board’s independence was a crucial factor in persuading investors of the merits of the pay deal.

“WPP has a very independently minded board and compensation committee, which makes decisions that they believe are in the long-term interests of the company and its shareholders, of which I am one,” he wrote.