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Aviva boss quits amid pay criticism

The boss of Aviva, the UK's largest insurer, is to step down with immediate effect, the company has said, as shareholder anger claimed the scalp of another City executive.

Andrew Moss, who has been chief executive since 2007, will leave after more than half of shareholder votes failed to back the firm's remuneration report at its annual meeting last week, which was widely seen as a criticism of Mr Moss's performance.

The Oxford graduate offered to waive a near-5% pay rise which would have taken his annual salary over the £1 million mark but this was not enough to appease investors, who have been hit by a 30% drop in the share price in the last year.

Mr Moss, who was embroiled in an affair scandal in 2009, will be replaced on an interim basis by incoming chairman John McFarlane, who will become executive deputy chairman with immediate effect and executive chairman from July 1. Investors appeared to back the move as Aviva shares jumped 5% in early trading, adding some £450 million to its market value at £9.2 billion.

Aviva could not confirm how much severance pay Mr Moss will receive, but the annual report states that if a director resigns they are entitled to pay in lieu of the six-month notice period, which would equate to £480,000.

Mr Moss's departure follows reports that two unnamed major investors had called on Mr McFarlane to replace Mr Moss at the earliest opportunity.

Some 59% of votes failed to back Aviva's pay report, in one of the biggest ever shareholder protest votes, while 10% went against or withheld their votes on the re-election of Mr Moss.

Mr Moss was also awarded a £1.2 million bonus, equal to 120% of salary, while Trevor Matthews, Aviva UK chief executive, was awarded a £45,000 bonus despite just joining the board on December 2.

The remuneration report would have been thrown out completely had measures to give shareholders binding votes, as put forward by Business Secretary Vince Cable and backed by investor groups, been brought into effect.

Lord Sharman, outgoing Aviva chairman, confirmed Mr Moss had approached him about stepping aside to make way for new leadership. Aviva's share price has declined around 60% since Mr Moss took the helm in July 2007.