UniCredit’s top investor BlackRock voted against CEO pay

Business

UniCredit’s largest investor BlackRock voted against the remuneration package that last month turned the Italian bank’s new boss Andrea Orcel into one of Europe’s highest paid bank chiefs, a document showed.

Orcel narrowly avoided a shareholder revolt against his pay package worth up to 7.5 million euros ($9 million) a year, securing only 54% of votes at a general meeting on April 15.

Minutes from the meeting published on UniCredit’s website late on Thursday showed BlackRock was among investors that voted against the pay policy, which got rejected by shareholders accounting for almost 43% of capital present at the AGM.

New York-based BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager with $9 trillion in assets, is the top investor in UniCredit with a stake of 5.1%. A spokeswoman for BlackRock in Italy declined to comment.

Earlier this month BlackRock was among investors that rejected the pay of executives at GE Corp.

Also Allianz Global Investors, the asset manager part of German group Allianz SE (ALVG.DE), rejected Orcel’s pay package, according to the minutes. A spokesman for AllianzGI confirmed all of their funds and mandates voted against.

Allianz Group is the third-largest investor in UniCredit with a 3.1% stake behind Capital Research and Management which owns 5.0%.

Orcel’s package, which doubled the pay of previous Chief Executive Jean Pierre Mustier, had drawn criticism from leading shareholder advisory firms and came amid regulatory calls for restraint over pay in the face of the pandemic.

Both International Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis had recommended investors reject it, taking aim in particular with a fully guaranteed bonus for 2021.

When considering attendance of 60.5% at the general meeting, the remuneration policy received backing from only a third of UniCredit’s capital.

That includes Italian shareholders Leonardo Del Vecchio, the eyewear billionaire, as well as Fondazione Cariverona and Fondazione CRT. The two charitable foundations that are historic investors in UniCredit had openly backed Orcel’s pay package saying the bank faces tough choices.

UniCredit hired Orcel after falling behind rival heavyweight Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI), which last year acquired UBI and secured over a fifth of the domestic market.

In joining Italy’s No. 2 bank, Orcel is relinquishing more than 25 million euros in deferred pay from former employer UBS, which he left to become CEO at Santander (SAN.MC) in 2018 before falling out with the Spanish bank over pay. ($1 = 0.8285 euros)