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As was to be expected given the intense campaigning by opponents (including the government/parliament and big business) over the last 6 weeks, Swiss voters have rejected by 65.3% to 34.7% the initiative launched by the youth wing of the Social Democratic Party proposing to put in place a cap on executive remuneration to no more than twelve times the lowest salary in a company. The arguments of the opponents (job losses, erosion of economic competitiveness, shortfall in tax receipts, increased bureaucracy, etc) will have prevailed over the socialists’ desire to redistribute wealth more equally (see PDF for a list of top executive salaries greater than 1:100 paid in 2012 according to Travail Suisse, an association of trade unions).

However, given that this referendum came only eight months after the referendum on the so-called Minder initiative (requiring a binding vote on executive salaries and banning golden parachutes amongst other measures) was successful, this is certainly indicative that there is a substantial portion of Swiss citizens who are not only feeling very uneasy about excessive executive compensation (261 times the lowest salary in the case of Roche’s Austrian CEO in 2012, 434 times in the case of Credit Suisse’s American CEO in 2009), but that they also think something should be done about it. Given the economic hardship present in many European countries, the Swiss referendum on curbing CEO pay to a ratio of 1:12, despite having been unsuccessful in this country, may well ignite (or reignite in some cases) the debate elsewhere.

Some links to studies criticising prevailing executive remuneration practices:

Miscellaneous articles in the English-speaking press ahead of the votation:

Amended on 25 November to include the nationalities of Roche‘s and Credit Suisse‘s top executives.

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