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UBS chief executive officer Oswald Gruebel went without his 2010 bonus after the bank's share price fell during the year.

Sebastian Derungs/AFP/Getty Images/Sebastian Derungs/AFP/Getty Images

Oswald Gruebel, chief executive officer of UBS AG, is the first head of a major bank to say he will forgo his 2010 bonus after the wealth manager's share price fell during the year.

While the Swiss bank has succeeded in stemming wealth management outflows - one of Mr. Gruebel's stated priorities - and returned to profit in 2010, the CEO renounced his payout for the second successive year.

"The fact that the share price did not increase in 2010 has led to Mr. Gruebel's decision," UBS said in a statement.

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The bank said that Mr. Gruebel, who was brought out of retirement two years ago to revive UBS, was entitled to a bonus based on profit, an improvement in results and progress toward medium-term strategic goals.

UBS shares fell 4.4 per cent in 2010 but outperformed the Stoxx European Banks index, which dropped 11.6 per cent.

Like Mr. Gruebel, many other CEOs at top banks renounced their bonus for 2009.

But many have said they will take their awards for 2010 while others are expected to do so after profits recovered and political pressure eased on them to pass up extra payments.

Some have taken their bonus in deferred share awards.

Switzerland had to rescue UBS in 2008 after its flagship bank wrote down $52-billion (U.S.) in the crisis, pushing it to the biggest annual corporate loss in Swiss history.

Former chairman Marcel Ospel and other ex-board members agreed to return 33 million Swiss francs ($35.7-million) in payments from the bank after a media campaign against excessive pay.

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Mr. Gruebel has set an ambitious plan to rebuild UBS's profit beyond its precrisis level and the straight-talking German wants to instill a new culture of strict cost control.

UBS is under more scrutiny than most banks to rein in pay. Compensation represented 52.9 per cent of income last year, down from 73 per cent in 2009, but still one of the highest among investment banks, where the compensation ratio averaged near 40 per cent for 2010.

"Nomura and the two Swiss majors still have problems with high cost ratios," analysts at Barclays Capital said in a research note on Friday, although they added that UBS was "moving in the right direction."

In contrast to Mr. Gruebel, Brady Dougan, CEO of rival Credit Suisse, took a bonus of almost 18 million Swiss francs for 2009, bringing his total pay to over 19 million francs for the year and making him the second-highest-paid executive in Switzerland.

Last year, Credit Suisse, which did not need a government bailout, threw oil on the Swiss debate around executive pay by awarding Mr. Dougan shares worth around 71 million Swiss francs under a five-year bonus plan.

Pay at 11 European banks totalled $164.5-billion, up 7 per cent from 2009, with staff costs rising at all but two firms, according to analysis by Reuters.

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But on Friday, Deutsche Bank chief executive officer Josef Ackermann said "significant progress" had been made on policies for compensation in the industry.

Many politicians and the public remain angry at the scale of pay in the industry so soon after the financial crisis, especially in Europe.

The Swiss government has kicked off a legal process to tighten regulation of its top banks, including the right to force those bailed out by the state to make changes to bonuses and even cancel payouts.

UBS has brought in a scheme that withholds a portion of bonuses and only pays them out if the bank's results warrant it.

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