The Swiss have voted to curb the pay of top executives, overwhelmingly supporting a package of measures that will dramatically shift power away from companies’ boards toward their shareholders.
The package, sponsored by Swiss entrepreneur Thomas Minder, includes giving shareholders a binding vote on executive pay, banning lavish recruitment and departure packages, limiting directors’ terms to one year, and banning bonuses that encourage buying or selling firms – under possible penalty of prison, the Financial Times reported.
The move would also hit the many foreign companies that have moved their headquarters to Switzerland in recent years for tax advantages, the Telegraph reported.
According to Swiss state television, 68 per cent of voters, and all 26 cantons approved the changes.
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Swissinfo (the Swiss Broadcasting Corp.) noted that the leaders of many political parties and even some trade unions opposed the measure, but their rank and file ignored them.
Swiss business fiercely opposed the plan, which will apply to all listed companies. They argued that the rules would drive away businesses, kill jobs and hurt Switzerland’s vaunted competitiveness.
The country’s business lobby, Economiesuisse, campaigned vigorously against the changes, and said it had set aside up to 8 million Swiss francs ($8.6 million) for the purpose, far more than the 400,000 francs raised by Minder and his supporters, the FT reported.
Despite being so overmatched, Minder’s campaign mobilized Swiss voters angered by corporate misbehavior.
Public outrage peaked two weeks ago, when it came out that pharmaceutical giant Novartis was planning to pay its departing chairman, Daniel Vasella, 72 million francs over six years for consultancy services and not working for any of their rivals. They dropped the idea after a public outcry.
The proposals must now be put into law by the parliament, which could take up to a year.