The Road Ahead for Shareholder Activism After a “Record Year”

The Road Ahead for Shareholder Activism After a “Record Year”


By: Andrew J. Colosimo, Warren S. de Wied, Steven Epstein, Christopher Ewan, Arthur Fleischer, Jr., Andrea Gede-Lange, David J. Greenwald, Randi Lally, Mark H. Lucas, Scott B. Luftglass, Brian T. Mangino, Philip Richter, Robert C. Schwenkel, David L. Shaw, Peter L. Simmons, Matthew V. Soran, Steven J. Steinman, Gail Weinstein, Maxwell Yim

Many commentators have cited 2018 as a “record year” for activism in terms of number of campaigns, capital deployed, number of activists involved, first-time activists, and board seats obtained. In the attached Briefing, we review the 2018 year-end statistics and note that they do not tell the whole story. Despite the record statistics, the growth of activism from 2017 to 2018 was modest, particularly when campaigns against an announced merger and short seller campaigns are excluded. In addition, first time targets in the U.S. represented less than 43% of financial activist's targets. Although we expect that activism will continue to evolve and will remain a prominent feature of the corporate landscape and that new themes and changing market conditions will create opportunities for activists, we believe the road ahead contains many pitfalls for activists. We discuss these and other issues in the Briefing, including the likelihood of a concentration of the ranks of activists, of workplace issues such as sexual harassment becoming a catalyst for activism, and of increased aggressiveness of activists in connection with M&A-related campaigns.

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