EUROPE'S biggest bank became the latest institution to come under fire from shareholders angry about "fat cat" boardroom payments.

HSBC was given a lukewarm reception at its annual meeting in London from campaigners anxious to block the re-election of director William F Aldinger III.

Mr Aldinger became a board member when HSBC took over US consumer finance house Household International.

Proxy votes received before yesterday's meeting at the Barbican Centre showed that about 20 per cent of shareholders rejected the board's resolution on executive pay for 2002.

The revolt was less significant than campaigners and trade unions had hoped.

Proxy votes backing the remuneration motion totalled 3.8 billion with just over a billion votes either going against the resolution or abstaining.

The vote for Mr Aldinger's re-election to the board was 4.2 billion in favour and 471 million against, with 254 million abstentions.

The move follows last week's defeat of the GlaxoSmithKline board by shareholders over the issue of executive pay, when a "golden parachute" deal for chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier was rejected in one of the biggest shareholder revolts in British corporate history.

At HSBC, shareholders were concerned that if Mr Aldinger were to leave the bank, he would receive a pay-off estimated at about £20m.