The US business magnate Ross Perot once said that “the activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.” As shareholder activism grows in scope and intensity, an increasing number of studies have been done internationally to determine its effectiveness. Specific attention has been given to the ability of shareholders to bring about changes in companies’ executive remuneration policies and practices by voicing their concerns in public. Research in the US, UK and Australia has yielded contradictory results. Whereas some “just-vote-no” and “say-on-pay” shareholder campaigns have resulted in companies reducing executive compensation, other studies show no post-engagement impact. As this topic has never been explored locally, we set out to determine the effect of public shareholder activism on executive remuneration policies and practices of JSE-listed companies and state-owned enterprises. Entities and executives who were targeted by ...

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