Aviva CEO Quits After Shareholder Revolt Over Pay

Andrew Moss, center. AP Images. Andrew Moss, center. AP Images.

LONDON (AP)—The chief executive of Aviva, Britain's largest insurer, has resigned following a shareholder revolt over executive pay, the company said Tuesday.

The company gave no explanation for the decision by Andrew Moss, who had been CEO since 2007, to step down a week after shareholders voted against the company’s decisions on executive pay and bonuses.

At Aviva's annual general meeting a week ago, 823 million votes were recorded against the pay plan, or remuneration report, compared to 670 million in favor. Another 152 million votes abstained.

Shareholders were unhappy at a 33 percent drop in the value of shares in the last year.

Aviva shares were up 4.9 percent at 317 pence in early trading in London.

“We suspect that the latest batch of negative headlines over the Remuneration Report at the AGM was the last straw and Moss had to go,” said Barrie Cornes, analyst at Panmure Gordon & Co. “Few will shed any tears given his handling of the business over the last few years, which have seen the shares massively underperform the sector.”

Reports have also speculated on the possible sale of Aviva USA.

Aviva said its chairman-designate, John McFarlane, would step in as interim CEO and “will immediately assume the task of improving the delivery of shareholder value by the group.”

“He does not underestimate the significance of the challenge but is optimistic of the right result,” Aviva said.

In recent weeks, David Brennan has announced his resignation as CEO of drug maker AstraZeneca and Sly Bailey has decided to leave newspaper publisher Trinity Mirror at the end of the year. Both companies have disappointed investors with declining share prices—down 15 percent in a year at AstraZeneca and 39 percent at Trinity Mirror.

Barclays was also stung by a drop in shareholder support for the bank’s executive compensation. Seventy-three percent of the vote supported Barclays’ plan, down from 90 percent a year earlier.

Chief Executive Bob Diamond was awarded pay, bonus and deferred shares worth £17.7 million ($28.7 million at the current exchange rate) for 2011, a year in which the chief executive said the bank’s performance was “unacceptable.”

Before Barclays’ annual general meeting, the bank announced that a chunk of the bonuses to Diamond and Finance Director Chris Lucas would only be paid out if certain earnings targets are achieved. Diamond stands to lose £1.35 million ($2.17 million) and Lucas £900,000 if they miss the target.

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