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Ebner goes into battle on ABB pensions

Corporate Governance

Martin Ebner

When a slight man with white hair, pinched cheeks, a smile playing around his lips and a bow tie stepped onto the podium at the early March AGM of Swiss/Swedish engineering company ABB, the hubbub of bored shareholders calmed and the hall rapidly fell silent.

They all knew that Martin Ebner was an investor on the inside of the catastrophic events at ABB and that he was worth listening to. They also knew he was a major loser as a result of the collapsing share price, and they were on his side in his battle with ABB's former managers.

So when Ebner, an ABB director, lambasted the two fat-cat executives (Percy Barnevik and Goran Lindahl) who had just taken tax-free, lump-sum pension payments of $87 million and $50 million respectively, the shareholders whistled. When he told them how he had arranged for them to pay half of the money back to the company, they cheered.