Swiss Voters Approve Limits on ‘Fat Cat’ Executive Pay

Swiss voters approved some of the world’s toughest limits on executives’ pay in a referendum, a move critics say could make Switzerland less attractive to multinational corporations.

The initiative against “fat cats,” proposed by Thomas Minder, head of a herbal toothpaste company, was backed by 67.9 percent of the voters today, the government said on its website today. The turnout was 46 percent. Polls, including one by gfs.bern, had signaled that outcome as probable.

The proposal gives shareholders an annual ballot on managers’ pay. It eliminates sign-on bonuses, as well as severance packages and extra incentives for completing merger transactions. The initiative also includes rules punishing executives who violate the terms with as long as three years in jail.

“I’m glad the long battle is over,” Minder, who started the campaign in 2006, told Swiss television. “It’s a powerful sign, this proportion above 60 percent.”

At least five of Europe’s 20 highest-paid chief executive officers work for Swiss companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Among them are the Credit Suisse Group AG CEO Brady Dougan, ABB Ltd. (ABBN)’s Joe Hogan and Joe Jimenez of Novartis AG. (NOVN) Roche Holding AG (ROG)’s chief Severin Schwan and Nestle SA (NESN)’s Paul Bulcke are also in the top tier.

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