March 12, 2018 / 2:59 PM / 10 months ago

Dutch government seeks to block ING CEO's 50 percent pay rise

ING Belgium Chief Executive Ralph Hamers presents the bank's annual results during a news conference in Brussels February 13, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government is exploring ways to block a proposed 50 percent pay increase for ING Group’s (INGA.AS) chief executive, Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Monday.

The government “really wants ING to take this proposal off the table”, Hoekstra said. “We will see what measures we can take to deal with this kind of situation.”

ING sparked political outrage last week by saying it wants to raise the annual salary of Ralph Hamers to a maximum of just over 3 million euros (£2.66 million), as Chairman Jeroen van der Veer said the CEO had been underpaid for years.

Parties representing 99 percent of the seats in Dutch parliament condemned the proposed wage increase, which has quickly became a major issue ahead of municipal elections in the Netherlands on March 21.

“We think it is a very unwise idea”, Hoekstra said on Monday. “This deals directly with the confidence we should be able to have in the banking sector. ING is not a cookie factory, it is a systematically important bank.”

Hoekstra said the government would look at the possibility of changing laws on bankers’ pay, but that moral suasion could be another way to influence ING. He declined to say whether he had been in contact with the Dutch lender in recent days.

Dutch politicians have tried to limit pay for bank executives since the financial crisis, including by limiting performance bonuses to a maximum of 20 percent of base salaries.

ING could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. The bank’s shareholders will vote on the proposed pay rise at their annual meeting on April 23.

Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Alison Williams and Alexander Smith

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