Investors vent wrath on Prudential chair

Shareholders at the Prudential have delivered a damaging protest vote against chairman Harvey McGrath in response to his handling of the failed AIA bid at the annual meeting.

McGrath’s stewardship of the botched $35.5bn (£21.6bn) bid for the Asian insurer last year became a lightning rod for investor displeasure and 21.98 per cent either opposed his re-election or abstained in the vote.

McGrath said the 78 per cent support from shareholders was “a pretty good mandate” to continue his job.

"The chairman becomes the lightning rod for shareholder issues at large, and that is what was reflected in the voting today," McGrath told reporters after the vote.

"I do not think there are areas of dispute. It is a question of continuing the level of engagement we have had over the last six to nine months."

But other non-executive directors – all of whom were up for re-election - gained at least 94 per cent of the vote while chief executive Tidjane Thiam gained 99 per cent support.

A Prudential spokesman shrugged off suggestions that the vote would lead to McGrath resigning. “The majority of shareholders have voted for the chairman and he has been re-elected,” he said.

The 22 per cent opposition was higher than the ten to 20 per cent of shareholders expected to vote against McGrath.

Prudential, Britain's No. 1 insurer, was forced to scrap its $35.5bn bid for Hong Kong-based AIA last June after investors balked at the cost, and AIA's parent, bailed-out US insurer AIG, refused to compromise on price.