Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to curb executive pay by giving shareholders a power of veto will not work, according to eight out of 10 British-based fund managers polled by Reuters.
Some respondents agreed that bosses' salaries and bonuses were excessive in certain cases, but there were questions over the effectiveness of legislation. The view that pay is not a matter for shareholders was also expressed, while some feared such measures could even be counterproductive.
Making the vote binding may make some (fund managers) even more reluctant to vote against proposals, said one chief investment officer, who did not wish to take a public position in such a politically sensitive debate.
Cameron has said he wants to upgrade investors' largely symbolic annual vote on remuneration packages to a binding one.
At present the votes are advisory ones, and employment contracts are agreed without recourse to shareholder approval.
Some of the 10 who responded said such a move could undermine responsible share ownership and inflict fresh damage on strained relationships between investors and company boards.
When presented with the results of the poll, a government spokesman said: Binding shareholders' votes is one of the ideas being considered by the government. We will bring forward detailed proposals following our consultations last year in the coming weeks.
Other respondents, which ranged from some of the biggest fund houses in Britain by assets under management to boutique scale operations, said high pay was a fact of corporate life and not really a matter for shareholders.
Some of the packages do seem to be fairly excessive, but in much the same way that footballers' pay is excessive ... if you need a good footballer you need to pay up, said Paul Mumford, senior fund manager at Cavendish Asset Management.
The same applies to senior executives on the basis that either they are in short supply or they are talented and you need to poach them from someone else or pay them above the going rate to keep them in your employ, he said.
Only two of the 10 respondents said the plan would be an effective weapon against the corporate cronyism that has been blamed for surging executive pay as company performances stutter and the pay of ordinary Britons stagnates.
FTSE 100 directors' total earnings jumped 49 percent in the last financial year to an average of 2.7 million pounds, in sharp contrast to a nearly 6 percent decline in the FTSE 100 <0#.FTSE> share index during 2011, according to research published in October by Incomes Data Services.
For the chief executives of FTSE 100 companies average total earnings stand at 3.8 million pounds while finance directors get 2 million pounds.
The Reuters poll came on the day anti-capitalist protesters gathered at London's Canary Wharf financial district to debate the ethics of executive pay and corporate accountability.
It also followed media reports that Royal Bank of Scotland
In another poll question, eight of the 10 felt the majority of FTSE 100 executives were paid fairly. Only two fund managers agreed that 80 percent or more of board members were overpaid. One called some executive pay packages ridiculous.
Most manager criticisms of pay focused on high salaries paid in the event of poor performance and on 'golden handshakes' - pay-offs to ousted executives such as the one paid to former RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin.
The majority of investors do not have much long-term interest and if they do not like what's going on at a company they can sell the stock, a third manager said, also on condition of anonymity.
Six respondents said companies would find other less transparent means of rewarding board members even if shareholders did wait around long enough to express their dissatisfaction with a pay deal.
Executive pay may well go down but it won't be because of this. There is a multi-decade adjustment, a change in attitude toward the free market that we have had over the last 30 years, the third fund manager added.
Eight respondents said they would not particularly welcome the introduction of a binding vote on executive remuneration, with two openly rejecting the control of boardroom pay as their direct responsibility.
Shareholders are not in a position to micromanage the companies ... it is not our job to make what are effectively operational decisions, a fourth manager said.
Cameron has not specified whether legislation to make the shareholder vote binding could be accompanied by a law change that makes pay and bonus contracts conditional on shareholder approval.
Vetoing awards already made and that may be part of a contract carries significant litigation risk, the first fund manager said.
Respondents rejected suggestions that investment managers, highly paid individuals themselves, were poorly qualified to curb boardroom excess.
Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management
We have consistently called on companies to show restraint in their remuneration policies, particularly the banks, one senior UK equities manager in the London office of a global asset management heavyweight said.
My remuneration would not cause any raised eyebrows. Some investors are definitely overly rewarded, but not here.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Andrew Callus, Greg Mahlich)