Cable's 'shareholder spring' on executive pay could fall flat

The good times may be back sooner than later, despite Vince Cable's plans. Photo: Press Association

I've just been speaking to the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, about his plans to curb executive pay.

He is adamant that he is not backing down from his original hope for annual compulsory and binding shareholder votes, even though they are only to take place now every three years. And he has high hopes that the moves will stiffen the spines of shareholders to act against pay that is not deserved. But if you were hoping that his proposals will actually bring sky high pay packets down to earth, you might have a long wait.

He told me he cannot guarantee that pay will actually come down:

While politicians and shareholders have worked to find ways to limit pay where performance has not been up to scratch, much of the public's anxiety has been quite different - anger about the levels of pay themselves. His proposals today which are, a source admits 'what was actually workable' with the City, do not go to address that more fundamental concern.

The plans, which look set for a smooth run through Parliament, could have quite an impact on how companies set their pay. In time some pay could come down as a result. But this relies on shareholders to keep caring about pay levels as they have in the last year.

Many did not appear to be excessively bothered about excessive pay until the so called 'shareholder spring' of the last few months. Don't forget around forty percent of all shares in public companies are owned by foreign investors who do not necessarily share the same concerns.

If and when the good times return it is still quite possible the resolve they have recently found to stand up to boardroom behaviour could disappear.

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