UK's Pirc presses for shareholder votes on directors' pay

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The UK's Pensions Investment Research Consultancy (Pirc) has written to 800 companies in the FTSE All Share index calling for a permanent resolution on company directors' pay.

The corporate governance consultancy argued that companies should give shareholders the opportunity to vote on directors' remuneration by putting resolutions forward at their annual general meetings.

If the companies contacted do not take any action, Pirc will then advise its clients to vote against the chairman of the company's remuneration committee.

In its letter Pirc said that the government issued a consultative document in 1999, which examined requiring companies to put pay policies to the vote. However, so far only 16, or 3%, of 503 companies surveyed by Pirc have sought shareholder approval for directors' salaries.

Pirc has now decided to seize the initiative in the hope that this will put further pressure on the government to take action.

Alan MacDougall, managing director of Pirc, said: &quotThere is a major problem of accountability and legitimacy over boardroom pay which can only be solved if it is seen to be the shareholders - the owners - rather than the directors themselves who are having the final say.&quot

The letter stated: &quotWe believe directors face a direct conflict of interest when setting remuneration in terms of whether they are able to balance their duty to the company and their accountability to shareholders with their own self-interest.&quot

MacDougall added: &quotIt is clearly best practice for there to be a vote on directors' pay. If companies decline to put such a resolution forward, we will regard it as a major failure of corporate governance and hold the remuneration committee chairman responsible by advising clients to vote against his election.&quot