ZURICH (Reuters) - Influential proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has advised Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) shareholders to vote against proposed bonuses for the executive board totalling almost 80 million Swiss francs (63.84 million pounds).
This follows similar recommendations from other proxy advisers amid criticism over bonus payouts at Credit Suisse despite Switzerland’s second-biggest bank posting a second consecutive multi-billion franc loss in 2016.
It raises the chances of investors blocking the proposed bonuses for Credit Suisse 13-member executive board in a binding vote at the Zurich-based bank’s annual meeting on April 28.
“For a bank that has underperformed its sector for the last one, three, and five year periods (to the end of 2016), this means that, among other things, the board and compensation committee should exercise appropriate restraint in the use of discretionary adjustment to variable remuneration,” ISS said.
A Credit Suisse spokeswoman said on Tuesday the bank took note of the recommendations and that it respects shareholder democracy.
U.S.-based ISS, which says it has more than 1,700 institutional clients, opposed the proposed long-term and short-term bonuses for Credit Suisse’s executive management, as well as pay for the bank’s board of directors.
Of the executive board’s bonus pool, Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam is in line for 4.17 million and 4.05 million francs in short-term and long-term variable compensation respectively, part of an overall 11.9 million franc pay packet.
“FAT CAT” REFERENDUM
Credit Suisse posted a 2.7 billion franc loss in 2016 amid a major restructuring of the bank and penalties for the sale of toxic mortgage debt in the run-up to the financial crisis.
However, Credit Suisse based performance awards on adjusted results “which the Compensation Committee considered the most accurate reflection of the operating performance of the businesses”, it said in its compensation report last month.
Credit Suisse has some key support in the bag. Harris Associates, one of its biggest shareholders, plans to vote in favour of all the AGM proposals, Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag has reported.
If shareholders vote down the bonuses, Credit Suisse’s board of directors may submit a new proposal to an extraordinary general meeting or to the next AGM, according to Credit Suisse’s articles of association.
Executive pay is a hot-button issue in Switzerland, with voters backing a “fat cat” referendum in 2013 giving shareholders the option of blocking executive payouts, although such revolts remain rare.
Editing by Michael Shields