Shareholder group critical as Roche and Novartis chiefs top Swiss pay table

CEO Joseph Jimenez of Swiss drugmaker Novartis arrives to address the company's annual news conference in Basel January 29, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - The bosses of drugmakers Roche and Novartis both earned more than 13 million Swiss francs ($13.6 million) last year, according to a study published on Wednesday, 18 months after the Swiss voted for some of the world's strictest controls on executive pay.

The pay packets of Roche CEO Severin Schwan and Novartis counterpart Joe Jimenez topped the list of Switzerland's best-paid managers and prompted criticism from shareholder group Ethos, which conducted the study.

"Double-digit sums are difficult to accept in Switzerland," Ethos director Dominique Biedermann told reporters. "When Mr Schwan and Mr Jimenez earn 13 million in a good year, but not a record year, what will they earn in a record year?"

Last year Swiss voters backed proposals to give shareholders the power to veto executive pay proposals as well as banning big rewards for new and departing managers. Companies have until the end of 2015 to implement the measures.

Ethos said the initiative appeared to have slowed the growth in executive pay, with overall compensation staying broadly stable despite a sharp rise in company share prices and profit.

Roche's Schwan earned 13.4 million francs, a drop of 13 percent from the previous year, while Jimenez's Novartis remuneration was stable at 13.2 million francs.

Executive pay at Switzerland's 100 biggest companies rose 2 percent last year, driven by an 8 percent rise in salaries in the financial services sector. Pay in other industries slipped by 1 percent.

Average CEO pay in Switzerland rose 4 percent to 3.4 million francs, while that of a non-executive chairman fell 7 percent to 1.2 million francs.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by David Goodman)