Monday, 6 April 2009

Unions & exec pay

There are a couple of interesting bits in the FT today about executive pay and both of them involve unions. First up, the TUC is suggesting that employees should have involvement in remuneration policy.
"What would be so radical about seeing workforce representation involved in remuneration committees of major companies to try to inject at least some sense of perspective with how the rewards at the top relate to the pay structures across the organisation?"

So says my old boss Brendan Barber.

I can already imagine the irritation this will without question have caused a couple of fund management people I had to deal with in the past who weren't exactly union-friendly, and for that alone I think this is a worthwhile proposal.... ;-) But more broadly, if any institutions do think this is a fundamentally bad idea they must be able to demonstrate a) why it would be worse than the current system where shareholder oversight has not proved effective and b) that their own track record on pay is a good one.

And point b) brings me on to the other story, which is actually based on this research. No surprise really, but US mutual funds are actually pretty weedy when it comes to voting against exec comp, or for resolutions seeking to rein it in.

And here I go on my soapbok again - I think we'd find a similar story in the UK (in fact I'm sure of it based on the data I've been able to find) but we aren't even able to produce a comparable report because fund managers aren't compelled to disclose their voting records, and as such many don't make any data public. This is a simple reform that Labour can enact, as it took a reserve power in the Companies Act that could be used to mandate disclosure. Surely the public interest argument in favour is much stronger now, so why not go ahead?

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