Saturday 19 August 2017

Ryanair rapped over votes ahead of salvo on rival's pay

Ryanair chief executive Officer Michael O'Leary holds an image of Colm Barrington, left, and David Begg used to illustrate the pay nonexecutives
board members are receiving from Aer Lingus at a press conference yesterday at the Gresham Hotel, Dublin.
Ryanair chief executive Officer Michael O'Leary holds an image of Colm Barrington, left, and David Begg used to illustrate the pay nonexecutives board members are receiving from Aer Lingus at a press conference yesterday at the Gresham Hotel, Dublin.
Thomas Molloy

Thomas Molloy

RYANAIR has been slammed by a UK corporate governance group for failing to publish on its website the results of votes taken at its last annual general meeting.

Sarah Wilson, MD of Manifest Proxy Voting agency, a company that monitors corporate governance here and in the UK, has alleged that Ryanair is the only company not to reveal on its website how shareholders voted on resolutions debated at last year's AGM.

Kingspan belatedly posted the results of its 2008 AGM early this year.

The criticism came on the same day that Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said he would be proposing pay cuts for Aer Lingus's non-executive directors at the Aer Lingus AGM next month.

"We are a little surprised at Ryanair given that their own corporate governance does not seem to be best practice," Ms Wilson told the Irish Independent.

Irritation

"It really does irritate shareholders to see companies talk about shareholder rights but not uphold them themselves. People in the public eye have to be like Ceasar's wife -- unimpeachable."

Shareholders are becoming increasingly vexed by issues of corporate governance. Shareholders at Shell voted earlier this week against pay increases for the oil giant's top executives.

No Irish company, including Ryanair and Aer Lingus, offers shareholders the chance to vote on executive pay despite the European Commission recommendations that all companies in the European Union allow shareholder votes on salary issues.

Ryanair said yesterday it would ask Aer Lingus to cut the salaries of chairman Colm Barrington and the airline's non-executive directors to save money.

Ryanair, a 29.8pc shareholder in Aer Lingus, has tabled two resolutions at the Aer Lingus AGM on June 5 which call for the Aer Lingus chairman's salary to be cut from €140,000 to €35,000 while non-executive directors' salaries would be cut from €36,000 to €17,500.

The resolutions would need the support of the Government and the staff shareholding to succeed.

Aer Lingus has not allowed Ryanair to table a motion to prevent the airline from making secret agreements with senior staff to pay them large sums of money if they choose to leave.

Mr O'Leary dismissed Aer Lingus's 11 non-executive directors as government and union appointees and "useless plodders", adding that their salaries were far too high for a company with a market capitalisation of €300m.

In a statement yesterday, Aer Lingus said it successfully competes every day against Ryanair and Michael O'Leary just isn't believable as any kind of champion of Aer Lingus shareholders. "He continually seeks to mislead everyone for his own motives. For example, today he criticised our non-executive directors' fees as being excessive," the statement said.

"In truth, Aer Lingus non-executive directors' fees are on average 24pc lower than 14 of the top ISEQ companies and this is before they took a voluntary reduction of 20pc," the statement added.

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