Signs of recovery seen blunting opposition to UBS pay

Wed May 1, 2013 7:02pm EDT
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By Katharina Bart

ZURICH (Reuters) - Strong first-quarter results are likely to ensure UBS UBSN.VX wins shareholder backing for its pay plans at a meeting on Thursday, though a $26 million signing-on award for investment bank chief Andrea Orcel is bound to attract criticism.

Former Bundesbank president Axel Weber, who has been chairman of the Swiss bank for the past year, will have the job of handling any opposition. And some of it could be personal, after he pocketed 4 million Swiss francs ($4.3 million) for joining, on top of his basic pay and an award of UBS shares.

Fed up with corporate excess, Swiss voters pushed through some of the strictest controls on executive pay this year, including the introduction of binding shareholder votes on compensation from next year.

"Chairman Weber talks of a new corporate culture and that managers should set an example, but he himself is taking eight million Swiss francs," retail investor Brigitta Moser-Harder, who has campaigned against UBS bonuses, told Reuters.

Banker pay and bonuses have become hot topics across Europe since the financial crisis, when a string of major banks including UBS had to be bailed out by taxpayers.

Earlier this month, shareholders at Julius Baer BAER.VX rejected the Swiss private bank's pay plan, while a sizable minority of investors were critical of a move by Credit Suisse CSGN.VX to issue new shares to pay staff bonuses.

A $2.3 billion loss due to a rogue-trading scandal and a record $1.5 billion fine for its part in a global interest rate rigging scandal have singled UBS out for opprobrium.

Last year, over a third of shareholders rejected the bank's pay plans and only the thinnest of majorities approved the performance of the board and management.   Continued...

The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen at the bank's headquarters in Zurich April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann