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Aviva CEO quits as investor revolts gather pace


LONDON (Reuters)—Aviva's Chief Executive Andrew Moss became the first casualty of a mounting appetite among investors to challenge executive pay, stepping down from his role after the insurer's remuneration plans were voted down by shareholders last week.

Investors had called on Mr. Moss to quit at a stormy annual meeting Thursday, angered that director pay had continued to rise despite the group's shares performing badly.

Mr. Moss's decision to waive his pay rise, announced three days before the meeting, failed to quell the rebellion and the insurer said on Tuesday he had subsequently told its chairman, Colin Sharman, that he had decided to resign.

"He has finally fallen on his sword after increasing pressure in recent weeks from shareholders and the media over pay and share price performance," said Espirito Santo analyst Joy Ferneyhough.

"It has been clear for a number of months and years that there has remained a section of shareholders unhappy with Moss's position."

Aviva said a further announcement would be made to confirm the financial terms of his departure.

Investors across Europe are becoming increasingly hostile to excessive rewards for directors. More than one-third of Swiss bank UBS's shareholders rejected its remuneration plans last week, mirroring investor rebellions at Credit Suisse and Barclays.

Shares in Aviva, which were up 3.2% to 311.65 pence ($5.03) at 1000 GMT, have lost 35% of their value since March last year and investor discontent has simmered.


Two top-15 shareholders told Reuters last year they believed Mr. Moss should be replaced, suggesting the group had failed to recover from the 2008 financial crisis as effectively as rivals Legal & General and Prudential.

John McFarlane, who was due to take over as nonexecutive chairman in July, will take on Mr. Moss's duties until a replacement is found—a process the insurer said could take several months as internal and external candidates are assessed.

One name linked with the post is likely to be Andy Haste, who was credited with transforming the fortunes of rival RSA during an eight-year tenure which ended in 2011. RSA made an unsuccessful attempt to buy Aviva's general insurance operations for £5 billion ($8.08 billion) in 2010.

Discontent among investors in Britain over pay has spread outside financial services. Bookmaker William Hill is facing a backlash against bonuses paid to Chief Executive Ralph Topping at its annual meeting today.

Premier Foods and satellite company Inmarsat suffered rebellions at their annual meetings last week.

Company directors are expected to remain under pressure from shareholders over executive pay even after the market downturn ends with investors and directors saying the days of shareholders routinely rubber-stamping company resolutions at annual meetings are gone.

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