ECGS is on the front line at the European “shareholders’ spring”

Posted on June 25, 2012

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Even though the high concentrated shareholder structure affected the meetings’ results, strongly diluting the against votes, also in continental Europe the so-called (maybe too optimistically) “shareholders’ spring” produced some relevant results.

The ECGS’ partners in many cases led the protests, also obtaining resounding results. In Switzerland, Ethos (ECGS’ partner representing more than 100 pension funds) openly opposed the egregious incentives for the UBS’ top management, actively contributing to reject the share capital increase to service the incentive plans. In France Proxinvest, ECGS’ managing partner, led the opposition to the €16 million severance payment for the former CEO of Publicis Maurice Lévy, obtaining as many as 47% of opposing votes. Still in France, Proxinvest and the activist fund Phitrust strongly contested the severance payments for the departing CEO of Carrefour, Lars Olofsson, resulting in 49% against votes.

Also Germany was not immune to the wave of dissent: at the last Deutsche Bank’s AGM almost 25% of voting shareholders followed the English fund Hermes and the German investors’ association VIP in denying  the discharge of the Supervisory Board’s members for the business year 2011, as they considered that the Board of the largest German bank “was not master of the situation, was not the driver of the process”. Such result is of particular relevance, taking into account that the discharge of the Board is usually a formality item obtaining almost 100% of favourable votes.

But the most relevant news still come from France, destined to represent a milestone in European corporate governance: at the last Air France – KLM’s General Meeting, the French State (major shareholder with 16.1%) voted against the approval of the €1.5 million compensation remitted to the dismissed CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, contributing to reject the proposal with 78.8% of opposing votes. The Italian State also contested some remuneration packages at controlled companies, but they voted for all of them, despite clear cases of “pay for failure” (i.e. the €9.5 million severance payments received by the former Chairman and CEO of Finmeccanica when he resigned as charged of fraud). May our Government representatives take their French colleagues as a model for the future season.

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