Burberry Faces Investor Advisory Groups' Wrath on Executive Pay

  • Investment Association joins ISS in voicing concern over pay
  • Objections mount over compensation of CEO Bailey, CFO Brown

Burberry was last defeated on a non-binding pay vote in 2014 after the group handed Bailey a one-time award to prevent him from leaving.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Burberry Group Plc’s executive compensation faces growing opposition after the U.K.’s Investment Association joined the chorus of critics ahead of the fashion company’s annual meeting, where shareholders are set to vote on its pay report.

The group, which advises fund managers, has issued an alert about Burberry, according to a person familiar with the issue. It focuses on awards to Chief Executive Officer Christopher Bailey and Chief Financial Officer Julie Brown, as well as performance conditions attached to the long-term incentive plan, the person said.

Christopher Bailey

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The Investment Association is adding its voice to that of another advisory group, Institutional Shareholder Services, which has urged investors to vote against Burberry’s report on compensation at the July 13 annual meeting. Each group advises as much as 25 percent of the shareholder base of some large U.K. companies.

QuickTake: Executive Pay

The largest shareholder protest this year in the U.K. has been at educational publisher Pearson Plc, where 61 percent of investors voted against a pay report that included a bonus for CEO John Fallon despite a profit warning and stock plunge in January. A revolt by shareholders of Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc fell just short of 50 percent.

The Investment Association declined to comment on its “amber top,” or mid-level alert, saying its report was confidential to subscribers. Burberry is “actively listening to the concerns of shareholders and will continue to look into them,” the company said in a statement. It said it’s writing to shareholders to explain its pay policies.

Burberry was last defeated on a non-binding pay vote in 2014 after the group handed Bailey a one-time award to prevent him from leaving. New CEO Marco Gobbetti is set to take over next week, with the current chief concentrating on creative work.

ISS described criteria for an exceptional award of 5.4 million pounds ($6.9 million) to Bailey as “murky.” The group also criticized a buyout intended to compensate Brown for the loss of pay when she left medical-devices maker Smith & Nephew Plc.

“It is not entirely clear that the buyout was done on a like-for-like basis of her outstanding awards at Smith & Nephew and as such shareholder support for the remuneration report is not considered warranted,” the group said.

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