Swiss voters voiced their anger at perceived corporate greed Sunday by approving a plan to boost shareholders’ say on executive pay. Some 67.9 percent of voters backed the “Rip-Off Initiative,” with 32.1 percent against, according to the official count broadcast by Swiss public television station SRF. The outcome of the referendum was considered a foregone conclusion after opinion polls in recent months showed strong public support for the initiative. News last month that the outgoing board chairman of Swiss drug maker Novartis AG, Daniel Vasella, was to receive a leaving package worth 72 million Swiss francs ($77 million) further fired up public sentiment against “fat cat” bosses. Vasella later said he would forego the deal, but by that time the incident had dashed opponents’ hopes of stopping the initiative. “Today’s vote is the result of widespread unease among the population at the exorbitant remuneration of certain company bosses,” Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told a news conference in the capital Bern hours after polls closed.
Swiss lawmakers will now have to draft a law giving shareholders the right to hold a binding vote on all compensation for company executives and directors. The law will also ban “golden hellos” and “goodbyes” — one-off bonuses that senior managers sometimes receive when joining or leaving a company.
It also promotes greater corporate transparency, for example by requiring that all loans to executives be declared and forcing pension funds to tell their members how they voted at shareholder meetings.
The measure targets all Swiss-based companies as long as their shares are publicly traded. Breaching the rules could lead to a fine of up to six annual salaries and up to three years in prison.
“It’s a powerful signal,” said Thomas Minder, an independent lawmaker and businessman who was one of the main forces behind the Rip-Off Initiative.
Full Article: Swiss Vote for Tough Limits on Executive Pay.