Foxtons to Cineworld: four firms getting a bloody nose over executive pay | Executive pay and bonuses


Investors have been giving companies a bloody nose in recent weeks by staging rebellions over what they consider excessive executive pay packets during the pandemic.

Several of these firms have also faced a backlash over the decision to pay executives large bonuses while receiving taxpayer-funded government support. Here are some of the businesses that have been in the pay spotlight.

Foxtons

More than four in 10 of the London estate agent’s shareholders failed to back its plans to award a near-£1m bonus to its chief executive at the same time as the firm was refusing to pay back millions of pounds of government support.

Foxtons had received almost £7m in government furlough money for staff and business rates relief at the time of the vote.

Almost 40% of its investors voted in April against the company’s remuneration report, with a further 5% abstaining, which is often considered a protest vote. However, the vote was not binding, and Foxtons said its CEO, Nic Budden, would still receive the payout.

The influential investor advisory service Glass Lewis had recommended shareholders vote against Foxtons’ remuneration report because of “excessive granting practices in light of Covid-19”, stating there was “no reason as to why the company could not reduce the bonus to nil”.

Morrisons trolleys
Morrisons’ £9m executive pay and bonus awards were rejected by 70% of investors. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

Morrisons

The supermarket faced one of the biggest shareholder revolts in recent years last month, when 70% of investors voted against the company’s executive pay awards.

Morrisons decided to award £9m in pay and bonuses to its chief executive, David Potts, and his two most senior managers, in a year when the retailer’s profits halved because of extra costs incurred during the pandemic. Despite the size of the protest vote, it is not binding, and the supermarket said the executives intended to collect their awards.

Morrisons, like other food retailers, benefited from the government’s business rates holiday during the pandemic, at a time when their sales were boosted by the closure of cafes and restaurants.

XPO Logistics

The US-owned delivery and warehousing firm, which handles parcels for retailers including Asos and Marks & Spencer, came in for criticism after it handed multimillion pound bonuses to its executives while receiving UK government support.

XPO Logistics shareholders rejected the Connecticut-based company’s pay plan at the annual meeting in May, on the advice of unions and the shareholder advisory organisation Pirc. The vote was non-binding, but investor rebellions are often viewed as embarrassing for the company at the receiving end of a protest vote.

XPO Logistics paid $6.4m (£4.6m) in cash bonuses for 2020, just over half of which ($3.3m) was paid to Brad Jacobs, the company’s chief executive and chair, while top bosses at the firm also received over $27m in share options.

Meanwhile XPO, which employs more than 25,000 people in the UK, claimed between £12m and £25m in furlough support through six of its UK subsidiaries between December 2020 and February, according to HM Revenue and Customs data. XPO did not own two of the businesses until January 2021 but the claims continued after that point.

Cineworld

Shareholders in the UK’s largest cinema chain also expressed their displeasure at the large reward packages handed to executives during the pandemic. More than a quarter (28%) of investors failed to support a controversial reward scheme that could lead to top bosses being awarded more than £200m in share awards if the company’s shares returned to pre-pandemic levels. Thousands of Cineworld staff were furloughed while its 127 UK cinemas were closed.



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