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AstraZeneca CEO £2.3m bonus hike sparks shareholder row

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Pascal Soriot, as AstraZeneca Executive Director and CEO, during US Senate Finance Committee hearing on drug prices, graphic element on gray
Pascal Soriot, as AstraZeneca Executive Director and CEO, during US Senate Finance Committee hearing on drug prices, graphic element on gray

Amid mounting scrutiny of AstraZeneca's (AZ.L) COVID-19 vaccine, the company's CEO is facing pushback from shareholders over a potential big bump in bonuses. 

Pascal Soriot is in line for a windfall of between £2.3m ($3.2m) and £12m — a sum that could rise in line with AstraZeneca's share price.  

Three investor advisory groups have called on shareholders to vote against the policy. 

Pirc, Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) all raised concerns over plans to raise the cap of Soriot's maximum share bonus. The current long-term plan would see him receive a maximum of 550% of his £1.3m base salary, whereas the move would raise that number to 650%. 

The company had also planned to up his maximum bonus to 250% from 200% depending on performance. 

According to the Mail on Sunday, Aviva Investors and Standard Life Aberdeen have already voted to block the proposals. 

Shareholders are due to meet on Tuesday at the company's annual meeting. 

The CEO earned £15.4m last year and has raked in around £90m since joining AstraZeneca nine years ago. 

Read more: Week ahead: UK GDP readings, US retail sales and CPIs

Neville White, the head of responsible investment policy and research at EdenTree Investment Management — a shareholder of AstraZenea, said in remarks published by The Guardian: “As long-term responsible investors in AstraZeneca we applaud unreservedly the company’s leadership during the pandemic. This pride is now tarnished however by proposals to once again escalate executive pay to heights rarely seen in the UK.”

“We will vigorously oppose these proposals and call upon the AstraZeneca remuneration committee to think again given this will surely damage the company’s reputation at a time when we should be focused solely on its achievements.”

Yahoo Finance contacted AstraZeneca for comment.

The row comes alongside further issues with the company's coronavirus vaccine developed in conjunction with Oxford University.

There were reports over the weekend that the EU's medicines regulator is looking into possible links with the vaccine and a rare nerve-degenerating disorder. 

Watch: Age threshold for alternative to AstraZeneca jab raised