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Convert’s campaign

Financial Times

By Andrew Hill

Published: June 9 2009 03:00 | Last updated: June 9 2009 03:00

Jeroen van der Veer is an honourable man, so it wouldn’t do to call into question his motive in calling for changes to the way executives are rewarded. But the Royal Dutch Shell boss – whose own pay was criticised at his last shareholder meeting – is still guilty of pulling up the ladder behind him. Sad though it may be, his long experience makes him an unlikely – and probably doomed – reformer.

He starts with the disadvantage that he has enjoyed the fruits of the system. Remuneration committees are mainly populated by directors who have benefited from the decisions of such committees at their own companies. The suggestion Mr van der Veer can use them as the launchpad for his campaign is as credible as MPs starting a movement for expenses reform from a floating duck-house.

Assume, however, Mr van der Veer does manage to mount a campaign. Having declared his hand, he will surely find his efforts cut short. As Warren Buffett, the US investor and arch-critic of pay without performance, pointed out a few years ago: “I’ve been on 19 boards and only been on compensation committees once – at Salomon [the investment bank]. They outvoted me two to one.”

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