Shareholders of QBE have delivered a first strike against the insurance giant and its executive pay packets.
More than 45.5 per cent of shareholder votes cast at QBE’s annual general meeting on Thursday were against the company’s remuneration report for 2017.
That is well above the 25 per cent level that constitutes a strike against executive pay, and a second strike at next year’s AGM will trigger a vote to spill the board.
The Australian Shareholders Association said it voted against the remuneration report as rewards for executives did not align with a fall in shareholder returns.
QBE posted a full-year loss of $US1.25 billion ($1.6 billion) in 2017, and slashed its dividend for shareholders.
Chief executive Pat Regan last month opted to reduce a planned grant of rights to shares worth $1.7 million by 25 per cent, in response to feedback on the plan from some shareholders.
Shareholders also voted on a resolution calling for more disclosure of climate-related risks at Thursday’s meeting, with only nine per cent in favour.
QBE chairman Marty Becker told shareholders that climate change activists were trying to influence strategy without considering the nature of the insurer’s global business.
The resolution was put up by environmental lobby group Market Forces and industry super fund Local Government Super.
Local Government Super head of sustainability Bill Hartnett said the fund’s investments in insurance companies are being increasingly impacted by exposure to extreme weather events and natural catastrophes caused by climate change.
“We calculate that QBE has incurred an additional $2.45 billion in unexpected natural catastrophe losses between 2010-2017 … all shareholder loss,” Mr Hartnett said.
“Yet in this period QBE has had little discernible disclosure on how it manages climate change risks.”
Market Forces executive director Julien Vincent said QBE was lagging competitors in meeting new reporting recommendations.
However Mr Becker said QBE had begun work on measures that would meet recommendations by the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, effective from the 2018 annual report.
The insurance industry was hit by a series of natural disasters in 2017, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria across the Americas, wildfires in California, and Tropical Cyclone Debbie in Australia.
Mr Becker said those run of events contributed to an estimated $US330 billion in global catastrophe losses, of which US$135 billion was insured, and represented the highest level of insured catastrophe losses on record.