One in three British Unilever shareholders voted against the company’s proposed remuneration plan. Investors in the Dutch part of the (currently) British-Dutch company will vote on the plan as well.
Unilever had asked its London shareholders to approve a major wage increase for CEO Paul Polman and his financial aid, CFO Graeme Pitkethly. “The Dutch CEO was paid 11 million euro last year, several dozen percent more than previously. The new proposal would increase his fixed fee another 5 % and his maximum bonus another 23 %”, Dutch business paper FD writes. This could bring his wages up to some 14 million euro.
According to Unilever’s remuneration commission, a higher fixed salary was desirable, because Unilever “is not in line with comparable companies in the United Kingdom and Europe”, according to FD. The salary increase would also facilitate the search for a possible successor. The plan is met with huge resistance from, among others, the British Investment Association (which represents the major British investors) and the influential American vote advisor ISS. The latter fears the higher fixed salary will also increase other fixed fees and it was able to convince 35.81 % of London shareholders to follow its vision.
All eyes on Rotterdam
It remains to be seen how the Dutch shareholders will react, who will meet in Rotterdam today. In any case, David Tomic told FD that “one does not often see this type of result. It is a very clear sign that Unilever has overstepped its mark with the remuneration plan.”
“The British resistance to Unilever raises questions about the company’s impending departure from the United Kingdom. Investors get to vote on that in September and if the London General Assembly can be considered an omen, then Unilever will face another battle then”, the business paper said.