Proxy adviser Glass Lewis & Co has recommended Heineken NV shareholders vote against three proposals to be put to them later this month because of what it regards as excessive severance pay for its former chief executive.
Jean-Francois van Boxmeer stepped down in June 2020, a year earlier than scheduled, and received a payment of €5.52 million ($6.56 million), with Heineken also taking on a related €7 million of tax, according to the company's annual report.
The report was published just after Heineken announced plans to cut 8,000 jobs to restore profit margins.
Glass Lewis said in a report dated 3 April that the severance payment far exceeded the one year of salary limit recommended by the Dutch Corporate Governance Code. Van Boxmeer received a base salary of €1.25 million in 2019.
Heineken said it had decided to honour Van Boxmeer's employment contract from 1984, before the existence of the corporate code, and that it had always made this known in previous annual reports.
It added that the current board and executive team had voluntarily cut 20% of their salaries from May to December 2020, in light of the impact on business of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that all their bonuses for 2020 had been cancelled.
Glass Lewis recommends voting against the remuneration report at the annual shareholder meeting on 22 April, as well as against the discharge of the supervisory board and the re-appointment of one of the board's members.
The proposals should however pass given that Heineken is controlled by the Heineken family via Heineken Holding.
Mexican conglomerate Femsa is the second largest shareholder in both Heineken NV and Heineken Holding NV as a result of Heineken's purchase of its brewing business in 2010.