A TINY investment fund based in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, is voting against bonuses at banking giant Barclays and calling on big institutions to follow the new Stewardship Code and go public with their objections.
The £20 million-plus package for Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has attracted opposition from the Association of British Insurers and activist Pirc ahead of the bank's annual meeting next week.
But the likes of Standard Life, Scottish Widows, Fidelity and Aviva have declined to confirm reports that they are likely to vote against the Barclays remuneration report.
Now Philip Graves, who runs the £2.5m S & W Munro UK Fund, has written to Barclays chairman Marcus Agius saying he will vote the fund's 20,700 shares – worth some £45,000 – against the report, and says he has released the letter in accordance with the Stewardship Code's call for shareholder objections to be published.
Mr Graves tells the chairman that despite a 12-page remuneration report it was still "hard to determine the exact proposals." Press reports had suggested Mr Diamond's total package was worth £25m, but the annual accounts had given the choice of £2.5m, £6.3m, or £8.24m, including the controversial £5.7m "tax equalisation" payment to offset Mr Diamond's double taxation in the UK and US.
On the two-key performance measures which trigger bonuses, Mr Graves says the return on equity at Barclays was 5.8%, less than the previous year's 7.2%, and "a long way short of the 13% targeted by the board". He continues: "It has not been possible to find the TSR (total shareholder return) for 2011 listed in the report and accounts, which is somewhat surprising given its importance for performance measurement purposes. We calculate a negative return of 30.5%."
It was no surprise that shareholders were questioning the 200% of salary bonus paid to Mr Diamond and 225% to finance director Chris Lucas.
Robert Davies, founder of Fundamental Tracker Investment Management at Bearsden which runs the fund, commented: "It is easy to say we don't hold much and it won't make a difference, but most institutions say they have a quiet word over a glass of sherry – and the board just ignores it. We think it needs the oxygen of publicity."
He went on: "We are also making a submission to the Kay Review that investors should have a seat on the board of these companies, otherwise they will ignore the remuneration report."
A spokesman for Standard Life Investments commented that like other institutions SLI tended not to publicise its voting intentions ahead of meetings, "unless we have reached an impasse behind the scenes". On this occasion SLI had publicly questioned the proposed tax equalisation payment at Barclays because the process had come as a surprise.
Barclays has said it is continuing to discuss with the ABI the issues raised by shareholders.
l Early yesterday shareholders in Citigroup voted down the bank's remuneration report including a $50m package for CEO Vikram Pandit, with only 45% of votes in favour.