We don’t know the full story around Andrew Moss’ departure from Aviva on the back of a hefty protest vote from investors over his pay deal. It may well be that major shareholders made it very clear behind closed doors that they expected to see him go, with the vote acting as a public demonstration that they were serious about private demands. Perhaps the board found the advisory vote to be useful lever to remove an underperformer who had brought some troublesome baggage to the role.
But whatever the truth of the matter, the story exposes a wrinkle in the debate over executive pay.
Investors have been cast in the role of white knights as politicians and boardrooms joust over remuneration. There is a hope that this disparate posse will save us all from sky-high pay deals and the burgeoning gap between corporate leaders and their workers. But the Moss case raises questions over how effective they can be.
After all, the objection about Aviva, as is generally the case in revolts like this, was that the CEO failed to justify his pay; but the response has not been to moderate pay. The vote was about him, and not the contents of his wage packet.
Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine a situation where serious investor concerns over poor executive performance would result in a reduction in pay, rather than a goodbye kiss for the hapless CEO. It’s even harder to imagine that being repeated across the FTSE 250.