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Abzocker! Taking the Lead Against Corporate Excess, Swiss to Vote on 'Fat Cat' Pay

Proposal grants binding shareholder vote on CEO salaries, bans golden parachutes

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

(Photo: Steve Rhodes via Flickr)

Taking the lead in punishing the "lavish bonus culture" which many believe encouraged fiscal managers to take unnecessary risks consequently driving the global financial crash,citizens in Switzerland have successfully petitioned for a vote to limit "fat cat" pay on a March 3 referendum.

Calling the proposal "symptomatic of a global backlash against corporate excess," Reuters reports that the measure regulates Swiss companies listed on the stock exchange by granting shareholders a binding vote on compensation and "bans practices like golden handshakes for new hires and golden parachutes for departing managers."

“It is just a scandal that leaders of major companies award themselves exorbitant pay and golden parachutes while their companies sustain enormous losses and engage in massive layoffs,” said Thomas Minder, lawmaker and small-business owner, who long campaigned for the measure blaming the country's highly-paid "fat cats" —Abzocker in German, or hustler—for causing the financial crisis.

“Shameless executive payouts have very clearly come from the U.S.,” said Brigitta Moser-Harder, an activist shareholder who owns shares of Switzerland's biggest bank, UBS AG, and largest engineering company, ABB Ltd. The US currently has a law that stipulates unbinding 'say on pay' salary votes by shareholders.

A recent poll by opinion research group GfS Bern found significant support for the measure among Swiss voters, with roughly 65 percent supporting the referendum—more support than any other in Swiss history, according to the institute.

“People are clearly fed up,” said political scientist and head of GfS Bern polling, Claude Longchamp.

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