We’ve had a fair while to ponder the implications of a British AGM season which saw investors oust a few CEOs and deal bloody noses to a few others. We’ve also had some data which implies the revolt wasn’t as widespread as advertised, but Sacha Sadan at Legal and General Investment Management thinks we have seen something important, and something that must be exploited.
His take is that austerity is at the heart of the matter. While the public suffers in a faltering economy, and investors stomach dwindling returns, it was never going to fly that pay deals for bosses should survive unchallenged. Add to that government and media pressure on remuneration, plus a new era of investor collaboration thanks to the stewardship code, and you get an ideal set of factors to drive the ‘shareholder spring’.
Of course, austerity won’t (let’s hope) last forever; governments are unlikely to sustain a narrative around ‘fat cat’ bosses; and the media always moves on. For Sadan that makes it crucial for investors to strike while the iron is hot.
Governance chiefs at the big British fund houses are fond of saying that their best work goes unnoticed. They say that their diplomatic efforts behind closed doors, in delicate negotiations with CEOs and their boards, achieve far more than grandstanding AGM votes which grab front page headlines. All of which could imply that the ‘shareholder spring’ was a failure by investors to convince executives of their case.
But the way Sadan tells it, it is a line in the sand. And it’s one which he says is already having an effect as executives hit the phones to their cherished investors, eager to make sure they don’t become the new Andrew Moss or Martin Sorrell: “They don’t want to be on that list next year,” Sadan said during a briefing at LGIM’s City headquarters on Wednesday.