Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Three brief items

We're in the thick of proxy fight season. We'll do our best to keep up.

1. One of the founders of Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Howard Greene Jr, has said recently that he will vote for the dissident slate at that company's annual shareholder's meeting May 27.

"There needs to be a fresh wind blowing through the boardroom,” Greene told an interviewer. "I think our science and technology is first in class. . . . On the other hand, the last few years have shown that our commercialization of that has been pretty disappointing.”

The dissident slate is a combination of Icahn and Eastbourne nominees, and the combination itself was made possible by an SEC no-action letter.

2. SEC proceeds against David E. Hurley

Hurley, an investment adviser, has settled a case brought against him by the SEC, which charged him with violating SEC rules pertaining to proxy voting by failing to describe his investment company's proxy voting policies and procedures to its clients properly.

Hurley was the chief operating officer of Intech, a firm that it appears routinely voted its proxies in accord with AFL-CIO recommendations, in the hope of getting a high ranking in that organization's "Key Votes Survey," which in turn was expected to help Hurley/intech attract new union-affiliated clients and keep its existing clients of that sort happy.

But, says the SEC, Intech's "written policies and procedures did not addresss material potential conflicts that may have arisen between Intech's interests and those of its clients who were not pro-AFL-CIO."

3. A closed-end real estate fund -- meeting May 20.

RiskMetrics Group has recommended against the liquidation proposal that will be up for debate at the special meeting of shareholders in DWS RREEF Real Estate Fund Inc. on May 20.

Here's a press release on the subject.

DWS is a closed-end real estate fund. What, you might ask, does that mean? A closed-end fund generally does not continuously offer its shares for sale and its shares are not redeemable, except perhaps at stated internals. As a consequence, the value of these shares on the secondary market can often trade at a discount on the funds' net asset value. When that discount becomes large, pressure to iquidate often develops, which is what is happening here.

The May 20 meeting may tell us something about the extent of push-back we're goiing to be seeing at what I take it is the bottom of a business cycle: push-back against such liquidation proposals.

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