It was revealed today that UBS' new investment bank chief Andrea Orcel was paid a $26m golden hello when he joined from Bank of America last summer. Banker pay is a hot topic in Switzerland, and this news is likely to attract a lot of attention. UBS nearly collapsed in 2008.
There is one clause of the Swiss rule which will create problems, however, and that is the ban on golden hellos and goodbyes. Massive payouts for failure are a disaster, whenever they happen, and tend to discredit the market economy. They should not happen. But it makes sense to ensure bosses are always incentivised to do the right thing for shareholders. If CEOs of listed firms believe that a takeover bid for their company makes sense for their shareholders – perhaps because the premium is so big that there is no way the same value could be created by retaining the firm’s independence – then it is important that they are incentivised to say so. There is a role for golden goodbyes in this case: a payout to compensate the CEO for selling the firm and thus losing his or her job. Without one, the CEO may have an incentive to resist at all cost, which would not be in shareholders’ interests.