Swiss business lobby heads quit after pay vote debacle

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* Swiss voters backed controls on executive pay in March* Discord unusual in Swiss business elite* Swiss watch federation quit Economiesuisse in FebruaryZURICH, June 19 The two heads of the main Swiss business lobby Economiesuisse announced on Wednesday they were both stepping down after the organisation came under heavy fire over its failed campaign to oppose strict controls on executive pay.

Economiesuisse said in a statement that Rudolf Wehrli, who only took over as president in October, would step down at the end of August as he did not have enough time to devote to the task of overhauling the lobby group. Chairman Pascal Gentinetta is leaving immediately due to differences of opinion about the strategic direction of the organisation, Economiesuisse said, adding that chief economist Rudolf Minsch would take over his role on an interim basis.

The group said it was working on a review of its priorities and structures, including aiming to improve its campaigning activities and strengthening its communication with the public, political parties and other decision makers.

The departures illustrate a level of infighting that is unusual among the usually close-knit Swiss business elite. Economiesuisse represents 100,000 companies from all sectors employing 2 million people. Economiesuisse had campaigned heavily against proposals adopted by a large majority of Swiss voters in a referendum in March to force listed companies to give shareholders a binding vote on compensation. It was accused of scaremongering after warning of an exodus of multinationals from Switzerland if the plan was adopted. It also commissioned a film, eventually scrapped, that suggested the proposal could plunge the country into civil strife.