UBS faces pay backlash as Weber becomes chairman

Thu May 3, 2012 6:46am EDT
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By Katharina Bart

ZURICH (Reuters) - UBS UBSN.VX became the latest bank to face the anger of its shareholders over executive pay on Thursday, as investors queued up to voice their complaints in a packed meeting that echoed recent protests at Credit Suisse and Barclays.

"Big banker pay hasn't been tamed at all. It's as though UBS hasn't learned any lessons at all from the past crises," Brigitta Moser-Harder, a small investor, told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting attended by around 3,400 shareholders.

Moser-Harder was among more than two dozen shareholders signed up to address the meeting and said she would vote against UBS's pay plan, which the bank will put to a non-binding shareholder vote.

Anger is rife in the population at large over multi-billion dollar pay deals in an industry whose excesses were at the centre of the recent global economic downturn, and now shareholders are also becoming more vociferous.

Last week, nearly one third of Credit Suisse CSGN.VX investors opposed the bank's pay levels, while 26.9 percent voted against salaries for top executives at Barclays (BARC.L: Quote).

Swiss shareholder groups Ethos and Actares are urging investors to vote down what they see as excessive pay packages at UBS, including that of former Bundesbank head and incoming chairman Axel Weber.

A rebellion by a large group would be a relative novelty in Switzerland where vocal criticism of companies more commonly comes from small retail shareholders.

SENDING A SIGNAL   Continued...