last edited 2013/03/04 23:13 (*
Thomas Minder, main author of the Abzocker Initiative
The well known airline of Switzerland "Swissair" grounded October 2, 2001 - which had quite an impact in Switzerland, in particular when it became known, that the operating CEO, who was assigned to help the airline, left with 13 mio CHF compensation while his own airline grounded. These circumstances lead to the "Abzocker Intiative" (loosly translated, "intiative against those who rip you off"). In Switzerland there is the direct democracy, if you raise 100,000 signatures for a proposal, the entire nation has the right to vote on it. Now, the "Abzocker Initiative" was delayed for 5 years in parliament in Bern; and finally March 3, 2013 the swiss citizens voted on it, 68% voted Yes
. The initiative strengthens the stockholder rights, e.g. mandatory vote on the compensations of the board of directors, CEO etc of publically traded companies, but also forbids golden parachutes (payments before or after leaving a company). While the nationwide political parties from the center to the right voted against the initiative, their local sections and more grassroot sections of all political parties
voted Yes: it showed this issue of greed and abuse of power wasn't a political left vs right, but a social concern of top vs down.
Now, Switzerland will become the most progressive nation world-wide in regards of stockholder rights, and the direct democracy has shown, it sometimes can bring real change.
Now, in the same week EU finally found a compromise to limit the bonus payments of bankers, and it was defined that a bonus can be 100%, with agreement of the stockholders also 200% of the base income. It sounds like a revolution, yet, when looking more closely, who receives a double of the income when the company is successful? Bankers, and self-employed people; but at least the discussion and the sentiment, as expressed by the Occupy movement in 2011, finally has arrived with 12-16 months delay in the political system in Europe.
I like to focus on a small detail of the "Abzocker Initiative" just 2 weeks before the actual vote: the annual general assembly of Novartis, one of the biggest pharma companies, where it became known that ex-CEO Vasella got a deal of 72 mio CHF for doing 6 years nothing (anti-competition agreement), and the stockholders had the choice to agree or disagree. Now, the swiss stockholders, also institutional investors, voted against the board of directors and that deal with the ex-CEO, whereas the american investors voted for it. The relative "small" compensation of 75 mio CHF in the light of 9,600 mio CHF profits was considered acceptable, not worth the bother. Yet, the small country of Switzerland, the compensation of 75 mio for 6 years doing nothing was the additional boost for the "Abzocker Initiative" - initiative against those who rip you off.
While the Occupy movement was born in the US, now Europe and Switzerland seem to really follow up and pick up the concerns as expressed in this movement. At the same time the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the USA makes deals with HSBC, who money laundered and let them go with a fine representing 1/10 of their yearly profits; and also the details of the passivity of the DOJ regarding finding the culprits of the mortgage crisis which lead to the 2007/2008 financial crisis (see also PBS Frontline: The Untouchables ) are just discussed, but nothing more.
Occupy as movement has pretty much dissolved, but the raised concerns finally get resolved, piece by piece, not as fast many wished for, but the standing up in 2011/2012 has not been without impact.
Rene K. Mueller
in particular the vote has been discussed prominantly in Germany, especially the fact the initiative has been a wakeup call for the political establishment of Switzerland, and that the initiative was brought up by the people through direct democracy.