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Swiss voters say yes to 'Rip-Off Initiative' to control executive pay

March 04, 2013|By Shan Li
  • Daniel Vasella, former head of drug maker Novartis, sparked outrage when his exit package from the company was reported to be about $77 million.
Daniel Vasella, former head of drug maker Novartis, sparked outrage when… (DOROTHEA MUELLER / EPA )

Voters in Switzerland, angered by high executive pay, backed a plan to increase the control of shareholders over compensation of corporate leaders.

Nearly 70% of voters approved the so-called "Rip-Off Initiative," according to the Swiss television station SRF, which gives shareholders the right to vote on compensation for company directors and executives and bans bonuses bestowed on high-ranking employees when they join or leave a firm.

"Today's vote is the result of widespread unease among the population at the exorbitant remuneration of certain company bosses," said Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga in a press conference over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.

Voter outrage was stoked recently by the news that the departing chairman of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG was given an exit deal worth about $77 million. The executive later said he wouldn't take the package, but by then public opinion was firmly cemented for the initiative.

The measure is also intended to increase corporate transparency -- pension funds now have to disclose how they voted at shareholder meetings and loans to executives must be publicly disclosed.

Failure to comply with the rules could result in three years in prison and fines. The initiative follows other European nations such as Denmark that already have similar laws on the books giving shareholders a binding vote on executive pay.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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