Home » Britain’s leading companies rocked by furious backlash over fat cat pay

Britain’s leading companies rocked by furious backlash over fat cat pay

by Press room

Some of Britain’s leading companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Ocado and Standard Chartered rocked by furious backlash over fat cat pay

Some of Britain’s leading companies have been rocked by a furious backlash over fat cat pay. 

At their annual general meetings yesterday, drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, food delivery group Ocado and bank Standard Chartered faced big shareholder revolts. 

The rebellions were an embarrassment for GSK chief executive Emma Walmsley, her Ocado counterpart Tim Steiner and banker Bill Winters – three of the best-paid bosses in Britain. 

In the money: Bosses Tim Steiner, Emma Walmsley and Bill Winters have raked in millions

Walmsley was paid £8.2m last year and has earned £34m since taking the job in 2017. Steiner picked up £2m in 2021, taking his earnings in the past decade to £87m. 

At GSK, 38.2 per cent of voting shareholders opposed the company’s pay policy following the introduction of a more generous bonus scheme. Under its previous policy bosses could receive a bonus capped at twice their annual salary. But if executives hit certain targets they can now get maximum bonuses three times their annual salaries. 

At Ocado, anger has been mounting over a scheme that could land Steiner £100m over five years. The ‘value creation plan’ – or VCP – gives him the chance to make £20m a year until 2027. 

Sophie Johnson, corporate governance manager at Royal London Asset Management, expressed ‘serious concerns’ over the policy. After the meeting, Ocado said 29.3 per cent of the votes cast were against the pay package itself while there was a 28.7 per cent vote against extending it from 2024 to 2027. 

At Standard Chartered, 26.8 per cent of shareholders voted against Winters’ pay in 2021, and 31.2 per cent slapped down the pay policy for this year. Winters pocketed £4.7m last year, and could bag £8.2m if the lender hits all its targets for 2022. 

The bank said the new remuneration policy was ‘developed following extensive consultation’ with major shareholders’. 

The rebellions were large enough to put them on the Investment Association’s list of shame over fat cat pay – a register of companies where 20 per cent or more of shareholders oppose boardroom earnings. 

Ocado said: ‘The board understands the concerns of some shareholders around the non-standard nature of the VCP, which was reflected in the votes. It continues to believe that the changes proposed and approved offer the best way to drive exceptional and sustainable growth, whilst rewarding short-term operational and strategic decisions.’ 

GSK said it was pleased the policy was supported, saying it ‘notes that a significant minority were not able to support the new policy’. It added: ‘The company undertook an in-depth consultation with the majority of its largest shareholders in developing the revised policy and will continue to engage to ensure it fully understands the views of all shareholders, and to continue to explain the rationale for the changes.’

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