by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
No, that’s not really a great strategy for improving our economic picture. But it is possible that some Swiss-based companies with strong American ties might be tempted to take another look to the west, based on a policy proposal documented in the latest Bloomberg Businessweek.
Swiss chief executive officers, including Roche Holding’s Severin Schwan and Nestlé’s Paul Bulcke, earn some of the world’s highest salaries. That may soon change. With more than 100,000 Swiss citizens having signed a petition to limit what they call “fat cat” pay, voters will decide in a March 3 referendum whether top executives should have their compensation set by shareholders rather than the members of clubby corporate boards. While a recent poll shows a majority may vote yes, the nation’s business lobby warns the move will drive out tax-paying companies. “If you have this kind of limitation on executive pay, why should an American company put their European headquarters into Switzerland?” asks Philip Mosimann, CEO of Bucher Industries, a Swiss maker of street sweepers. “They would leave. I’m certain of that.”
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean they would leave Switzerland for the United States, since the government here has shown its interest in targeting “millionaires and billionaires” for higher tax burdens.