More than two thirds of Morrisons shareholders have voted against the supermarket’s plan to hand bosses bumper payouts after removing the £290 million cost of dealing with Covid-19 before calculating bonuses.
The retailer said that 70.12% of shareholder votes were cast against its remuneration report at its annual general meeting in Bradford today.
In its annual report, Morrisons said that chief executive David Potts would receive the maximum £1.7 million bonus for the past year, despite profits plunging £165 million from £435 million in the previous year.
The firm’s boardroom committee had upgraded the chief’s payout after it stripped out the cost of the pandemic when calculating whether a bonus would be appropriate.
Mr Potts has been handed a total pay package worth £4.2 million including the bonus.
On Thursday, the retailer said it noted the “very significant majority” vote against the pay deal but staunchly defended the boardroom decision.
In a statement, Morrisons said: “In the Committee’s view, Morrisons performed exceptionally well for the nation during the first year of Covid with the executives widely recognised for their leadership, clarity, decisiveness, compassion and speed of both decision-making and execution.
“In these circumstances, the remuneration committee believed that it was appropriate to apply some discretion to the remuneration of the senior executives.
“It is a matter of sincere regret to the committee that it clearly has not been able to convince a majority of shareholders – or the proxy voting agencies – that this was the right course of action.
“The committee looks forward to re-engaging with shareholders, listening to their views, and once again making the case for why discretion was used in a genuinely exceptional year which produced a genuinely exceptional performance from the executive leadership.”
Last month, Morrisons said sales continued to grow in the latest quarter as pandemic restrictions kept grocery sales strong.
Sales in the 14 weeks to May 9 grew 2.7% on a like-for-like basis, excluding fuel, it said.
The investor outrage comes a year after more than a third of investors voted against its pay policy for 2019-20, amid concerns over generous pension deals for Mr Potts and chief operating officer Trevor Strain.