A new public register that will name and shame listed companies whose investors revolt over boardroom pay will be proposed next week as ministers seek to rebut criticism that they have watered down the tough approach promised by Theresa May.
Sky News has learnt that Business Secretary Greg Clark will announce that the Investment Association – the fund managers’ trade body – is to oversee the creation of the new register, which will include any company which faces opposition from at least 20% of shareholders.
New laws will also pave the way for nearly 1,000 listed companies to publish and justify the ratio between the pay of their chief executive and their average UK-based worker, according to a Whitehall source briefed on the plans.
It was unclear whether the figure for chief executives would comprise their total remuneration – which in the FTSE-100 averaged £4.5m last year – or only their base salary, which would produce a much lower ratio.
Mr Clark is also expected to say that the Government will guarantee listed companies’ employees a louder voice in the boardroom by amending the Corporate Governance Code, which is overseen by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).
Image: Greg Clark is due to announce the proposals next week
This will be achieved, according to an insider, either by designating a non-executive director to represent workers; nominating a director from a company’s workforce; or establishing an advisory council that would have access to board members.
That would meet a commitment made in the Conservatives’ General Election manifesto this year, although the Government is abandoning a pledge made in the same document to “legislate to make executive pay packages subject to strict annual votes by shareholders”.
Companies will also have to produce an annual statement explaining how they are acknowledging the interests of workers and wider stakeholders.
In addition to the requirements to be imposed on big public companies, privately-owned businesses – including Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group – will become subject to a new voluntary code of corporate governance principles supervised by the FRC.
The proposals, which will be published next week, will be hailed as a robust package of reforms designed to make big business more accountable.
They will nevertheless fall well short of the draconian tone struck by the Prime Minister last year.
The new measures come after corporate governance failings at Sports Direct International, the high street chain, and a bitter revolt last year over a £14m pay deal for Bob Dudley, the BP chief executive, spurred ministers to promise a crackdown on corporate excess.
Image: Sir Philip Green, Mike Ashley and Bob Dudley
The collapse of BHS, the retailer, was also a factor in hardening public and political opinion against the bosses of big businesses.
This year, there were fewer big protests over the pay of executives at FTSE-100 companies, but in the FTSE-250 index, there was a significantly higher number of revolts.
Under Sir Vince Cable, the former business secretary and now Liberal Democrat leader, shareholders in public companies were handed a binding say every three years on remuneration policy,
However, the annual vote on what directors receive is undertaken on a non-binding basis and looks likely to continue that way.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declined to comment on Thursday.