While criticism of high salaries and bonuses for those at the top of their industries isn't necessarily a new thing, especially since the recession, what is new is the number of companies responding at shareholder level, or just acting on their own intuition, to block high pay from occurring.
This isn't just a phenomenon limited to the banking sector, where we would expect to see a backlash, shareholder no votes are taking place across all areas of industry, and, in some cases, directors are foregoing large bonuses before a vote even takes place.
This could arguably be seen as the beginning of a new era of fiscal responsibility. No longer can companies argue that exorbitant salaries are required to attract the best talent, especially where the company then goes on to make a loss for that year. Shareholders' are expecting to see more back for themselves and their companies; they are less willing to see directors walk away with money that could be coming back to them as a dividend or used to pursue further growth.
Boardroom executives of at least five major companies are braced for rows over pay and succession planning when they hold their annual general meetings, at a time of renewed shareholder focus on directors’ pay. More than 25 companies have their AGMs scheduled for Thursday, although before they begin the focus is on FTSE 100 companies – such as Shire Pharmaceuticals, the building materials business CRH, Barclays and the fund manager Schroders – and the FTSE 250 engineer Weir.