Wednesday, December 24, 2008

That SRZ report

Schulte Roth & Zabel have put out a report on "current trends in activist investing" and what affected parties expect in this area during the year ahead. I linked to it yesterday, but this post will serve as an executive summary.

SRZ commissioned a survey of 25 corporate execs and 25 activist investors. As you might expect, there were points of disagreement between the two groups. "Corporate respondents tend to view activist investors as short-term investors out to make the highest returns possible in the shortest window of time ...." On one specific manifestation of that view, a majority of the execs said that the SEC should not adopt rules that would provide shareholder access to the company's proxy statement. A very considerable majority of the activists said that they do think the SEC should adopt such a rule.

The two sides of the survey differed also on the issue of the amount of activism they expect in 2009. The activists themselves think they'll have a busy year, whereas the corporate types think the recession will temper would-be proxy fights and such.

Only one of the activists surveyed said that litigation is the best approach to produce change in corporate policy [or "4% of the sample" in the language of pollsters -- we're supposed to remember at this point in the report that the sample consisted of 25.] None of the execs identified litigation as an effective strategy.

David Rosewater, a partner at SRZ, summed up the gist of the survey thus: "There is clearly a continuing wide gulf in the views of companies versus activists of the appropriateness of activists' engagement and involvement with the company abouyt its strategy. As a result, it seems likely that contentious contests will continue for the foreseeable future."

We might hope for "peace on earth, good will to men," but too much peace in the board rooms, too much goodwill at the annual meetings of shareholders, would be a bore.

No comments: