Home News UK & World News

Shareholders force out Aviva chief

Shareholders have claimed another high-profile scalp after Britain's biggest insurer announced the abrupt exit of its chief executive.

Andrew Moss's decision to stand down with immediate effect comes a week after investors voiced their discontent over the company's performance by staging a massive protest vote against Aviva's annual pay report.

His departure is the latest example of shareholder activism after two other chief executives, David Brennan at AstraZeneca and Trinity Mirror's Sly Bailey, stepped down amid increasing frustrations in the City.

The backlash over pay and bonuses continued when more than 50% of shareholder votes failed to back bookmaker William Hill's remuneration report, including a £1.2 million pay-to-stay award for chief executive Ralph Topping.

Barclays, Premier Foods and Xstrata have all suffered significant protest votes in recent weeks, while Unilever, WPP and Centrica are expected to face similar revolts at their AGMs in the coming days.

It is a trend that will be welcomed by Business Secretary Vince Cable, who has called for major shareholders to do more to rein in boardroom pay.

His department has just finished a consultation on whether to introduce binding shareholder votes, which would see companies require the support of 75% of investors to pass pay deals. Votes are currently advisory.

James Barty, senior adviser on financial policy at leading think-tank Policy Exchange, said: "Shareholders are no longer tolerating pay for mediocre or sub-standard performance. We believe this serves as a wake-up call to boards across the UK and in particular the remuneration committees."