‘Fat cat’ salary initiative shows mixed results

Biedermann believes the high salaries of banking executives, like that of outgoing Credit Suisse boss Brady Dougan (centre), who earned CHF90 million five years ago, are a thing of the past Pixsil

Two years after Swiss voters backed an initiative aimed at curbing the high salaries of ‘fat cat’ executives the overall result is mixed, says the director of the sustainable investment foundation Ethos.

This content was published on March 15, 2015 - 12:13 with agencies

According to Ethos boss Dominique Biedermann, the highest salaries earned by Swiss managers have hardly moved since the so-called Minder initiative was approved in March 2013 by a majority of Swiss voters.

“Up to now only small corrections have been observed,” he told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper in an interview on Sunday. He highlighted the cases of chocolate manufacturer Lindt & Sprüngli and chemicals firm Clariant, where managers have lost a small share of their salaries, and the case of the Novartis executive board, who receive lower bonuses. 

But he believed the excessive salaries of some bank executives, such as outgoing Credit Suisse boss Brady Dougan, who earned CHF90 million five years ago, were a thing of the past. And managers’ salaries were now more closely linked to performance and there was greater transparency, he declared.

Some high salaries paid to the managers of Swiss companies last year could be explained by the firms’ excellent business results, but these salaries were generally too high, he commented: “It takes time to correct these things, especially if performances are good.”

For many firms the initiative vote on salaries has only been in effect for one year. “We hope shareholders will have the courage to reject dodgy salaries,” said Biedermann.

Some 67.9% of Swiss voters approved the so-called Minder initiative in March 2013, launched by parliamentarian and businessman Thomas Minder, giving shareholders greater say over remuneration of company executives and directors. Swiss firms have until the end of 2015 to phase in all of the voters’ wishes, that include binding votes on remuneration packages and an end to certain bonuses. The initiative was seen as a reaction to high salaries paid to Swiss executives and managers.

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