Swiss executive pay initiative, 2013

The federal popular initiative "against rip-off salaries" of 2013 was a successful popular initiative in Switzerland to control executive pay of companies listed on the stock market, and to increase shareholders' say in corporate governance. It was one of three questions put to the electorate in the March 2013 referendums. The vote took place on the 3 March 2013, and passed with a majority of 67.9%, with a 46% turnout. The initiative mandates the Federal Government to implement the provisions within one year, pending implementation of the final law.

The initiative partly reflected developments in the United States Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act 2010 §957, that banned brokers from voting on their clients' money, and the Stewardship Code 2010 in the United Kingdom, which placed a duty on financial intermediaries to disclose their voting policies and make use of voting power. It also reflected a long running debate in Germany, which had not yet been reformed, about the position of banks.[1] In German, the title of the referendum is the Eidgenössische Volksinitiative «gegen die Abzockerei», literally Against Rip-off and in French, the Initiative populaire «contre les rémunérations abusives», literally against abusive remuneration.


Given the a number of corporate scandals, leading up to the global financial crisis beginning in 2007 a medium-size businessman and politician named Thomas Minder launched a campaign "against rip-off salaries" (gegen die Abzockerei). By 26 February 2008, he had gathered 118,583 signatures to launch a referendum under the Swiss constitutional rules. Minder's concern focused on

  1. the excesses of executive pay
  2. the ability of banks, who in the Swiss (and German) system of shareholding hold all share certificates, to vote by proxy using shares owned by other people, and
  3. the inability of pension beneficiaries and policyholders to determine their deposits were being used for voting.

Supporters of the initiative spent 200,000 Swiss franc, whilst opponents spent 8 million Swiss francs in their campaign to block the reform.[2][3] The public campaign drew particular attention to the large payouts for executives of Novartis and major Swiss banks. On 3 March, the referendum results showed that 67.9 per cent of voters supported the reforms.

A German initiative followed a month later, and if passed would represent a significant broadening of pay controls in Europe.[4]

Text of the initiative

The translation of the text is as follows.[5]


Against rip-off salaries initiative – Official results[7]
CantonYes (%)No (%)Voter turnout (%)
AG Argovia 66.8% 33.2% 44.4%
AR Appenzell Outer-Rhodes 66.3% 33.7% 51.8%
AI Appenzell Inner-Rhodes 61.0% 39.0% 41.9%
BL Basle-Country 67.5% 32.5% 44.5%
BS Basle-City 67.3% 32.7% 49.4%
BE Berne 70.3% 29.7% 42.8%
FR Friburg 70.3% 29.7% 44.5%
GE Geneva 67.7% 32.3% 46.5%
GL Glaris 69.6% 30.4% 36.1%
GR Grisons 65.5% 34.5% 56.2%
JU Jura 77.1% 22.9% 40.6%
LU Lucerne 66.3% 33.7% 46.2%
NE Neuchâtel 71.9% 28.1% 41.7%
NW Nidwald 57.7% 42.3% 49.0%
OW Obwald 56.1% 43.9% 51.6%
SH Schaffhouse 75.9% 24.1% 64.9%
SZ Schwyz 60.8% 39.2% 49.2%
SO Soleure 67.9% 32.1% 48.6%
SG St Gall 66.4% 33.6% 44.0%
TI Tessin 70.7% 29.3% 41.5%
TG Thurgovia 70.5% 29.5% 43.1%
UR Uri 64.3% 35.7% 41.4%
VD Vaud 66.5% 33.5% 41.4%
VS Valais 63.7% 36.3% 67.8%
ZG Zoug 58.2% 41.8% 51.9%
Zurich 70.2% 29.8% 47.0%
Switzerland 67.9% 32.1% 46.0%


The Swiss referendum had an immediate impact on other countries seeking its own reforms.[8] It led to calls by the German Social Democratic Party to introduce similar reforms in Germany[9] and it is quoted in the Bill proposed in Italy on cap-salaries for public employees.[10]

Daniel Alpert of The Century Foundation saw the measures as unnecessary.[11]

See also


  1. See the Geßler Commission (1979)
  2. Peer Teuwsen (24 January 2013), "Initiative gegen „Abzocker“: Minders Kampf" (in German), Die Zeit (5)
  3. Andreas Fagetti (31 January 2013), "Eine Watsche für die da oben" (in German), WOZ Die Wochenzeitung (5)
  4. Germany Weighs Pay Curbs; Legislation Would Give Shareholders More Say Over Executive Compensation March 12, 2013 WSJ
  5. nb Official translations are only available in German, French and Italian.
  6. The German word "Vergütung" refers generally to any pay, remuneration or compensation in return for work
  7. "Vorlage Nr. 568 - vorläufige amtliche Endergebnisse". Bundeskanzlei. 2013-03-03. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  8. 'Excess Under Siege: Europe Gains Momentum against Corporate Greed' (4 March 2013) Spiegel Online
  9. Schweizer Volksabstimmung: SPD fordert Anti-Gier-Gesetz für Deutschland' (4 March 2013) Spiegel Online
  10. (PDF) Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. The Swiss Miss on Executive Pay; Mandatory shareholder approval in public companies is unnecessary March 17, 2013 Wall Street Journal
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