Fidelity tells boards to tie exec pay to long term

LONDON, July 26 Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:52pm BST

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LONDON, July 26 (Reuters) - Fidelity Worldwide Investment, a major shareholder in many of Britain's largest corporations, has told firms in which it is invested that it wants boardroom pay to be more closely aligned to executives' long-term commitment to their companies.

In a letter to the companies, Chief Investment Officer for Equities Dominic Rossi called for firms to impose a lock-in on shares paid to executives, preventing bosses from cashing them in for at least five years.

Fidelity also said it believed executives should receive some of their pay in the form of 'career' shares which they must hold until they leave the company.

The fund manager's letter to boards follows a run of high-profile challenges - dubbed the 'shareholder spring' - to executive pay packages by investors frustrated at rising boardroom salaries at a time of declining share prices.

High-profile victims include Andrew Moss, the chief executive of British insurer Aviva, who stepped down after investors voted against his remuneration plans.

Shareholders at the world's largest advertising agency WPP recently gave a thumbs-down to a big pay rise for chief executive Martin Sorrell, with 59.5 percent of votes at the AGM opposing its remuneration report.

Investors have also reacted angrily to a near 9-million-pound ($14 million) pay-off for the Barclays investment banker at the centre of the Libor scandal which one politician called a "reward for failure".

"In recent years the pay of top executives has increased even as returns to shareholders have been poor and we believe that the majority of schemes are insufficiently long-term in their perspective," Rossi said in the letter.

"We have no objection to outstanding pay for outstanding performance but the interests of managers and owners need to be fully and transparently aligned and we hope that our revised guidelines are a step in this direction." (Reporting by Chris Vellacott; editing by Laurence Fletcher)