The shareholders of Citigroup voted to reject the generous pay package of the CEO Vikram Pandit this week, setting up a potential showdown that could ripple throughout the corporate world. The "advisory" vote — which is required by the Dodd-Frank Act, but is not binding — now puts the company's directors in awkward position. The can go along with it and ask Pandit to "give back" some of the $34 million it paid him last year, or can they can ignore it and defy the people they theoretically work for.
Neither option is attractive, but how it plays out could change the very nature of the shareholder-corporation relationship. It's the first time a major Wall Street firm has had to face such a vote and it probably won't be the last one to lose it.