Belfast Telegraph

Shareholders reject Aviva pay plans at annual meeting

By Jamie Grierson

Aviva suffered a major shareholder revolt yesterday after more than half of the votes at its annual meeting failed to back the insurer's pay awards.

In another sign of growing investor activism, the defeat came despite chief executive Andrew Moss this week waiving a near-5% pay rise which would have taken his annual salary over the £1m mark.

Some 50% of votes placed outside the AGM went against the pay report, while an additional 9% were withheld, in one of the biggest ever shareholder protest votes.

The remuneration report would have been thrown out completely had new measures to give shareholders binding votes, as put forward by Business Secretary Vince Cable and backed by investor groups included the Association of British Insurers, been brought into effect.

The embarrassing defeat follows a similar showdown between shareholders and banking giant Barclays, in which nearly a third of votes failed to back its remuneration report after chief executive Bob Diamond took a £17.7m pay package for 2011.

Similar scenes were playing out at Hovis to Mr Kipling owner Premier Foods' annual meeting, where just over 30% of shareholder votes failed to back the remuneration report. Premier, which saw its shares slide around 70% in 2011, paid around £3.5m to its executives last year, including a £1.9m "golden hello" for new chief executive Michael Clarke when he joined eight months ago.

Back at Aviva, chairman Lord Sharman apologised to shareholders at the AGM for ignoring their views when setting executive pay.

"We recognise a number of shareholders feel we have not reflected their views, and overall shareholder value, in our judgments on remuneration and the board and I apologise," he said.