Aviva has suffered a major shareholder revolt after more than half of the votes at its annual meeting failed to back the insurer's pay awards.
In another sign of growing investor activism, the defeat came despite chief executive Andrew Moss this week waiving a near-5% pay rise which would have taken his annual salary over the £1 million mark.
Some 50% of votes placed outside the AGM went against the pay report, while an additional 9% were withheld, in one of the biggest ever shareholder protest votes.
The remuneration report would have been thrown out completely had new measures to give shareholders binding votes, as put forward by Business Secretary Vince Cable and backed by investor groups including the Association of British Insurers, been brought into effect.
The embarrassing defeat follows a similar showdown between shareholders and banking giant Barclays, in which nearly a third of votes failed to back its remuneration report after chief executive Bob Diamond took a £17.7 million pay package for 2011.
Similar scenes were playing out at Hovis to Mr Kipling owner Premier Foods' annual meeting, where just over 30% of shareholder votes failed to back the remuneration report. Premier, which saw its shares slide around 70% in 2011, paid £3.5 million to its executives last year, including a £1.9 million "golden hello" for new chief executive Michael Clarke.
Back at Aviva, Mr Moss was awarded a 4.6% rise in March on his £960,000 annual salary but has decided not to accept the increase following talks with major investors.
Mr Moss was also awarded a £1.2 million bonus, equal to 120% of salary, while Trevor Matthews, Aviva UK chief executive, was awarded a £45,000 bonus despite just joining the board on December 2.
Aviva chairman Lord Sharman apologised to shareholders at the AGM for ignoring their views when setting executive pay.
Lord Sharman said: "We recognise that a number of shareholders feel that we have not reflected their views, and overall shareholder value, in the judgments we made on remuneration and for this the board and I apologise."