LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to make it harder for foreign companies to take over British firms and threatened to clamp down on soaring executive pay as she set out her plans for Britain if her Conservative Party wins a parliamentary election on June 8.
Below are reactions to her proposals from investment managers and shareholder groups and lawyers:
MARK FRIEND, HEAD OF THE LONDON ANTITRUST GROUP AT LAW FIRM ALLEN & OVERY:
“It seems the government is planning to extend the list of public interest criteria to allow for ministerial intervention in certain defined circumstances, although the devil will be in the detail.”
“But a potential concern about broadening the public interest test is that you may end up with lobbying by special interest groups, and decisions being made on grounds that are neither completely transparent nor robust, as was sometimes the case in the bad old days of the 1980s.”
“Also, for so long as the UK remains part of the EU, we will have limited ability to intervene in deals that fall within the jurisdiction of Brussels, save on grounds specifically permitted by the EU Merger Regulation.”
RACHEL HAWORTH, POLICY OFFICER AT SHAREACTION, WHICH SEEKS TO PROMOTE SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT:
“While we very much welcome proposed measures to increase stakeholder involvement in corporate governance, we believe the shareholder’s role may be the most effective point of intervention. Company law is still constructed around the concept of shareholder primacy, and it is shareholders who have the greatest influence over company behaviour and cultural norms.”
“We call upon the new government to widen the focus on corporate governance and address issues across the wider investment system. Millions of working people with pension savings have an ownership stake in the UK economy and their financial security on retirement depends on responsible corporate behaviour focused on long-term performance. Better pension governance with greater transparency would ensure that institutional investors are holding companies to account.”
ANDREW NINIAN, DIRECTOR OF STEWARDSHIP AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE AT THE INVESTMENT ASSOCIATION, WHICH REPRESENTS UK INVESTMENT MANAGERS:
“We welcome the renewed focus on measures to strengthen the UK’s corporate governance regime in the long-term interest of shareholders, their employees and customers.”
“We want to see the introduction of an escalation approach, whereby companies who receive large votes against the pay of their top team are required to subject the entire pay policy to another binding vote. We will continue to oppose complex remuneration structures for senior executives, which are failing to motivate company bosses to deliver the best long-term returns to their shareholders. “”We welcome the proposal to give companies the flexibility to choose the most appropriate way to represent their workforce at Board level.”
PAUL LEE, HEAD OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE AT ABERDEEN ASSET MANAGEMENT:
“Moves to help boards to understand and consider the interests of workers more fully will assist some to be more long-term in their thinking. Given that most businesses these days are people-businesses, it can only be good for long-term performance for boards to be more active in their consideration of employee matters. It’s helpful that the government is looking to be flexible in how this is delivered.”
“From a ‘How sustainable is your business model?’ perspective, which in the end drives the value of a company, it’s very important that you treat your workers well, and there’s clear alignment between staff, management and shareholders ...
“I do believe, if you can improve that alignment, that should be beneficial for companies and the long-term sustainability of their business model.
“On the proposals, the proof will be in the pudding, and it’s all about the details.”
“Preferably, from an investor perspective, you’d have a more level playing field in Europe instead of M&A being treated much differently in France versus the Netherlands versus the UK.”
“Consistency is a good thing, but it also needs to make sense. If we together move in a direction of more protectionism, that’s probably also not a direction you want to go.”
Reporting by Simon Jessop and Pamela Barbaglia; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Elaine Hardcastle