Millionaire CEOs of America's 'Swiss' companies brace for pay limits

FILE - In this June 12, 2007 file photo Edward Breen, chairman and CEO of Tyco International Ltd., is interviewed at the New York Stock Exchange. Foreign executives who moved their company headquarters to Switzerland to get better tax deals for their firms may find themselves paying the price for it this weekend. A plan to crack down on excessive corporate pay packages is predicted to pass at the ballot box Sunday, March 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Every city and rural district in Switzerland voted this past weekend to approve the Minter Initiative, a proposal by toothpaste mogul Sen. Thomas Minder to force Swiss companies to vote each year on boss pay levels and corporate directors, and to outlaw the fat signing, merger and severance bonuses that have lately enriched Swiss drug, medical and banking barons.

Now the big U.S. companies that use Switzerland as their legal headquarters have to decide if they will keep their corporate addresses of record in the usually business-friendly multilingual European financial center, if doing so will tend to trim the boss's millions.

At Tyco International, based in Switzerland but run from offices near Princeton, where retiring chief executive Ed Breen of New Hope took home more than $30 million last year, "we will assess the impact on Tyco" after Switzerland's government passes expected rules next year and "there is a more detailed understanding of the regulations," spokesman Brett Ludwig told me. "Once enacted, we will ensure that Tyco is in compliance with the law."

Ace Ltd., also based in Switzerland but actually run by boss Evan Greenberg, who collected $17 million last year, from Ace offices in New York and Philadelphia (where Ace is the successor to the old Insurance Co. of North America), preferred not to comment, said spokesman Stephen Wasdick.

Ace has moved before: the company was previously incorporated in the business-friendly British territories of the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, whose attributes include low taxes and relative ease of organization (revised).