Histoire récente de l’essor des investisseurs activistes | Conditions favorables et avenir prévisible ? *


Ce matin, je vous convie à une lecture révélatrice des facteurs qui contribuent aux changements de fond observés dans la gouvernance des grandes sociétés cotées, lesquels sont provoqués par les interventions croissantes des grands investisseurs activistes.

Cet article de quatre pages, publié par John J. Madden de la firme Shearman & Sterling, et paru sur le blogue du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, présente les raisons de l’intensification de l’influence des investisseurs dans la stratégie et la direction des entreprises, donc de la gouvernance, un domaine du ressort du conseil d’administration, représentants des actionnaires … et des parties prenantes.

English: Study on alternative investments by i...
English: Study on alternative investments by institutional investors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Après avoir expliqué l’évolution récente dans le monde de la gouvernance, l’auteur brosse un tableau plutôt convainquant des facteurs d’accélération de l’influence des activistes eu égard aux orientations stratégiques.

Les raisons qui expliquent ces changements peuvent être résumées de la manière suivante :

  1. Un changement d’attitude des grands investisseurs, représentant maintenant 66 % du capital des grandes corporations, qui conduit à des intérêts de plus en plus centrés sur l’accroissement de la valeur ajoutée pour les actionnaires;
  2. Un nombre accru de campagnes (+ de 50 %) initiées par des activistes lesquelles se traduisent par des victoires de plus en plus éclatantes;
  3. Un retour sur l’investissement élevé (13 % entre 2009 et 2012) accompagné par des méthodes analytiques plus sophistiquées et plus crédibles (livres blancs);
  4. Un accroissement du capital disponible notamment par l’apport de plus en plus grand des investisseurs institutionnels (fonds de pension, compagnies d’assurance, fonds commun de placement, caisses de retraite, etc.);
  5. Un affaiblissement dans les moyens de défense des C.A. et une meilleure communication entre les actionnaires;
  6. Un intérêt de plus en plus marqué des C.A. et de la direction par un engagement avec les investisseurs activistes.

 

À l’avenir, les activistes vont intensifier leurs efforts pour exiger des changements organisationnels significatifs (accroissement des dividendes, réorganisation des unités d’affaires, modification des règles de gouvernance, présence sur les conseils, séparation des rôles de PCD et PCA, alignement de la rémunération des dirigeants avec la performance, etc.).

Ci-dessous, un extrait des passages les plus significatifs. Bonne lecture !

The Evolving Direction and Increasing Influence of Shareholder Activism

One of the signal developments in 2012 was the emerging growth of the form of shareholder activism that is focused on the actual business and operations of public companies. We noted that “one of the most important trendline features of

2012 has been the increasing amount of strategic or operational activism. That is, shareholders pressuring boards not on classic governance subjects but on the actual strategic direction or management of the business of the corporation.”… Several of these reform initiatives of the past decade continue to be actively pursued. More recently, however, the most significant development in the activism sphere has been in strategically-focused or operationally-focused activism led largely by hedge funds.

The 2013 Acceleration of “Operational” Activism

Some of this operational activism in the past few years was largely short-term return focused (for example, pressing to lever up balance sheets to pay extraordinary dividends or repurchase shares), arguably at the potential risk of longer-term corporate prosperity, or simply sought to force corporate dispositions; and certainly there continues to be activism with that focus. But there has also emerged another category of activism, principally led by hedge funds, that brings a sophisticated analytical approach to critically examining corporate strategy and capital management and that has been able to attract the support of mainstream institutional investors, industry analysts and other market participants. And this growing support has now positioned these activists to make substantial investments in even the largest public companies. Notable recent examples include ValueAct’s $2.2 billion investment in Microsoft (0.8%), Third Point’s $1.4 billion investment in Sony (7%), Pershing Square’s $2 billion investment in Procter & Gamble (1%) and its $2.2 billion investment in Air Products & Chemicals (9.8%), Relational Investor’s $600 million investment in PepsiCo (under 1%), and Trian Fund Management’s investments of $1.2 billion in DuPont (2.2%) and of more than $1 billion in each of PepsiCo and Mondelez. Interestingly, these investors often embark on these initiatives to influence corporate direction and decision-making with relatively small stakes when measured against the company’s total outstanding equity—as in Microsoft, P&G, DuPont and PepsiCo, for example; as well as in Greenlight Capital’s 1.3 million share investment in Apple, Carl Icahn’s 5.4% stake in Transocean, and Elliot Management’s 4.5% stake in Hess Corp.

In many cases, these activists target companies with strong underlying businesses that they believe can be restructured or better managed to improve shareholder value. Their focus is generally on companies with underperforming share prices (often over extended periods of time) and on those where business strategies have failed to create value or where boards are seen as poor stewards of capital.

Reasons for the Current Expansion of Operational Activism

Evolving Attitudes of Institutional Investors.

… Taken together, these developments have tended to test the level of confidence institutional investors have in the ability of some boards to act in a timely and decisive fashion to adjust corporate direction, or address challenging issues, when necessary in the highly competitive, complex and global markets in which businesses operate. And they suggest a greater willingness of investors to listen to credible external sources with new ideas that are intelligently and professionally presented.

Tangible evidence of this evolution includes the setting up by several leading institutional investors such as BlackRock, CalSTRS and T. Rowe Price of their own internal teams to assess governance practices and corporate strategies to find ways to improve corporate performance. As the head of BlackRock’s Corporate Governance and Responsible Investor team recently commented, “We can have very productive and credible conversations with managements and boards about a range of issues—governance, performance and strategy.”

Increasing Activist Campaigns Generally; More Challenger Success. The increasing number of activist campaigns challenging incumbent boards—and the increasing success by challengers—creates an encouraging market environment for operational activism. According to ISS, the resurgence of contested board elections, which began in 2012, continued into the 2013 proxy season. Proxy contests to replace some or all incumbent directors went from 9 in the first half of 2009 to 19 in the first half of 2012 and 24 in the first half of 2013. And the dissident win rate has increased significantly, from 43% in 2012 to 70% in 2013.  Additionally, in July 2013, Citigroup reported that the number of $1 billion + activist campaigns was expected to reach over 90 for 2013, about 50% more than in 2012.

Attractive Investment Returns; Increasing Sophistication and Credibility. While this form of activism has certainly shown mixed results in recent periods (Pershing Square’s substantial losses in both J.C. Penney and Target have been among the most well-publicized examples of failed initiatives), the overall recent returns have been strong. Accordingly to Hedge Fund Research in Chicago, activist hedge funds were up 9.6% for the first half of 2013, and they returned an average of nearly 13% between 2009 and 2012.

In many instances, these activists develop sophisticated and detailed business and strategic analyses—which are presented in “white papers” that are provided to boards and managements and often broadly disseminated—that enhance their credibility and help secure the support, it not of management, of other institutional shareholders.

Increasing Investment Capital Available; Greater Mainstream Institutional Support. The increasing ability of activist hedge funds to raise new money not only bolsters their firepower, but also operates to further solidify the support they garner from the mainstream institutional investor community (a principal source of their investment base). According to Hedge Fund Research, total assets under management by activist hedge funds has doubled in the past four years to $84 billion today. And through August this year their 2013 inflows reached $4.7 billion, the highest inflows since 2006.  Particularly noteworthy in this regard, Pershing Square’s recent $2.2 billion investment in Air Products & Chemicals was funded in part with capital raised for a standalone fund dedicated specifically to Air Products, without disclosing the target’s name to investors.

In addition to making capital available, mainstream institutions are demonstrating greater support for these activists more generally. In a particularly interesting vote earlier this year, at the May annual meeting of Timken Co., 53% of the shareholders voting supported the non-binding shareholder proposal to split the company in two, which had been submitted jointly by Relational Investors (holding a 6.9% stake) and pension fund CalSTRS (holding 0.4%). To build shareholder support for their proposal, Relational and CalSTRS reached out to investors both in person and through the internet. Relational ran a website (unlocktimken . com) including detailed presentations and supportive analyst reports. They also secured the support of ISS and Glass Lewis. Four months after the vote, in September, Timken announced that it had decided to spin off its steel-making business.

The Timken case is but one example of the leading and influential proxy advisory firms to institutional investors increasingly supporting activists. Their activist support has been particularly noticeable in the context of activists seeking board representation in nominating a minority of directors to boards.

These changes suggest a developing blurring of the lines between activists and mainstream institutions. And it may be somewhat reminiscent of the evolution of unsolicited takeovers, which were largely shunned by the established business and financial communities in the early 1980s, although once utilized by a few blue-chip companies they soon became a widely accepted acquisition technique.

Weakened Board-Controlled Defenses; Increasing Communication Among Shareholders. The largely successful efforts over the past decade by certain pension funds and other shareholder-oriented organizations to press for declassifying boards, redeeming poison pills and adopting majority voting in director elections have diminished the defenses available to boards in resisting change of control initiatives and other activist challenges. Annual board elections and the availability of “withhold” voting in the majority voting context increases director vulnerability to investor pressure.

And shareholders, particularly institutional shareholders and their representative organizations, are better organized today for taking action in particular situations. The increasing and more sophisticated forms of communication among shareholders—including through the use of social media—is part of the broader trend towards greater dialogue between mainstream institutions and their activist counterparts. In his recent op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, Carl Icahn said he would use social media to make more shareholders aware of their rights and how to protect them, writing that he had set up a Twitter account for that purpose (with over 80,000 followers so far) and that he was establishing a forum called the Shareholders Square Table to further these aims.

Corporate Boards and Managements More Inclined to Engage with Activists. The several developments referenced above have together contributed to the greater willingness today of boards and managements to engage in dialogue with activists who take investments in their companies, and to try to avoid actual proxy contests.

One need only look at the recent DuPont and Microsoft situations to have a sense of this evolution toward engagement and dialogue. After Trian surfaced with its investment in DuPont, the company’s spokesperson said in August 2013: “We are aware of Trian’s investment and, as always, we routinely engage with our shareholders and welcome constructive input. We will evaluate any ideas Trian may have in the context of our ongoing initiatives to build a higher value, higher growth company for our shareholders.” Also in August, Microsoft announced its agreement with ValueAct to allow the activist to meet regularly with the company’s management and selected directors and give the activist a board seat next year; thereby avoiding a potential proxy contest for board representation by ValueAct. Soon thereafter, on September 17, Microsoft announced that it would raise its quarterly dividend by 22% and renew its $40 billion share buyback program; with the company’s CFO commenting that this reflected Microsoft’s continued commitment to returning cash to its shareholders.

What to Expect Ahead

The confluence of the factors identified above has accelerated the recent expansion of operational activism, and there is no reason in the current market environment to expect that this form of activism will abate in the near term. In fact, the likelihood is that it will continue to expand… Looking ahead, we fully expect to see continuing efforts to press for the structural governance reforms that have been pursued over the past several years. Campaigns to separate the Chair and CEO roles at selected companies will likely continue to draw attention as they did most prominently this year at JPMorgan Chase. And executive compensation will remain an important subject of investor attention, and of shareholder proposals, at many companies where there is perceived to be a lack of alignment between pay and performance. We can also expect that the further development of operational activism, and seeing how boards respond to it, will be a central feature of the governance landscape in the year ahead.

___________________________________________

* En reprise

Finding Value in Shareholder Activism (clsbluesky.law.columbia.edu)

The Corporate Social Responsibility Report and Effective Stakeholder Engagement (venitism.blogspot.com)

The Evolving Direction and Increasing Influence of Shareholder Activism (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

Shareholder activism on the rise in Canada (business.financialpost.com)

Dealing With Activist Hedge Funds (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

American Activist Investors Get Ready To Invade Europe (forbes.com)

Activist Investors Help Companies, Not Workers – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)

The Separation of Ownership from Ownership (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

Réflexions capitales pour les Boards en 2014 – The Harvard Law School (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

Shareholder Activism as a Corrective Mechanism in Corporate Governance by Paul Rose, Bernard S. Sharfman (togovern.wordpress.com)

Comment se préparer aux agissements plus audacieux des actionnaires activistes ?


Joseph Cyriac, Ruth De Backer, et Justin Sanders de la firme McKinsey Insights ont produit un formidable document de recherche sur la contribution et sur l’impact des activités des actionnaires activistes. Ceux-ci ciblent de plus en plus d’entreprises … et des entreprises de plus en plus grandes.

Une recherche empirique conduite par les auteurs indique :

(1) les types de facteurs susceptibles de les attirer

(2) comment les directions et les conseils d’administration doivent réagir à l’annonce de l’intérêt.

Voici trois constats qui découlent de l’étude :

1. Les campagnes menées par les activistes génèrent, en moyenne, un accroissement de la valeur des actions

2. L’issue d’un arrangement négocié tend à produire un rendement aux actionnaires plus élevé sur une période de trois ans

3. La plupart des campagnes débutent de manière collaborative mais tournent à « l’hostilité ».

Voici un court extrait d’un article que je vous invite à lire au complet pour une meilleure compréhension de ce qu’il faut faire lorsqu’une entreprise est approchée par un investisseur activiste.

Bonne lecture !

Preparing for bigger, bolder shareholder activists !

Activist investors1 are getting ever more adventurous. Last year, according to our analysis, the US-listed companies that activists targeted had an average market capitalization of $10 billion—up from $8 billion just a year earlier and less than $2 billion at the end of the last decade. They’ve also been busier, launching an average of 240 campaigns in each of the past three years—more than double the number a decade ago. And even though activists are a relatively small group, with only $75 billion in combined assets under management compared with the $2.5 trillion hedge-fund industry overall, they’ve enjoyed a higher rate of asset growth than hedge funds and attracted new partnerships with traditional investors. As a result, they have both the capital and the leverage to continue engaging largecap companies.P1060442

Shareholders generally benefit. Our analysis of 400 activist campaigns (out of 1,400 launched against US companies over the past decade) finds that, among large companies for which data are available, the median activist campaign reverses a downward trajectory in target-company performance and generates excess shareholder returns that persist for at least 36 months (Exhibit 1).2

Exhibit 1 : Activist campaigns, on average, generate a sustained increase in shareholder returns
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La montée de l’activisme corporatif | Défis à la gouvernance des sociétés ?


Voici un autre excellent article sur l’évolution de la situation de l’activisme. L’article de Laurie Havelock publié dans IR Magazine montre comment les cibles des activistes ont changées au cours des trois dernières années. Par exemple, le secteur financier qui représentait 36 % des cibles des activistes en 2010 ne représente maintenant que 15 %.

Les stratégies d’investissement des activistes se sont raffinées; elles ont muries. Elles mettent davantage l’accent sur la recherche, sur la volonté de collaborer avec les entreprises cibles, ainsi que sur des vues à plus long terme.

La tendance est de cibler des firmes qui ont accumulé de grandes liquidités et de viser des entreprises très diversifiées, dans le but d’explorer la vente de certaines unités d’affaires.

Lorsqu’on évalue quelles réactions produisent les meilleurs résultats financiers, on note que les situations de compromis entre les activistes et les entreprises donnent lieu à des retours de l’ordre de 60 %. Les entreprises sont de plus en plus à l’écoute des points de vue des actionnaires activistes…

Les activistes sont également de plus en plus perçus comme étant ceux qui amènent des idées nouvelles. Les activistes vedettes tel que Icahn n’hésitent pas à faire la promouvoir de leur cause pour les droits des actionnaires et à faire connaître leur position via les médias sociaux.

Les responsables des communications et des relations publiques des entreprises doivent sérieusement prendre note des doléances des actionnaires activistes, lesquels sont de plus en plus de mèches avec les investisseurs institutionnels.

En termes de stratégies utilisées par les activistes pour améliorer le rendement des entreprises, une étude de Linklaters a démontré que la fréquence des activités est la suivante :

Number of times different strategies employed by activists

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont appréciés.

The changing face of activism

What is the best way to engage with the growing and diversifying ranks of activist investors?

Listed firms are now expected to be prepared to deal with activist investors and the challenges they might bring to a firm and its boardroom. According to a recent study produced by Linklaters, the international law firm, the number of shareholder actions carried out across the globe swelled by 88 percent between January 1, 2010 and September 30, 2013, with the majority of that growth taking place in Europe and the US.
SEC chairman Mary Jo White described the influx as ‘a good thing’ for companies at the 10th annual Transatlantic Corporate Governance Dialogue organized by the European Corporate Governance Institute in December 2013.
‘I think most would agree the advice on how to respond to shareholder engagement today is quite different from the advice companies were getting 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago,’ she said. ‘The process has become less defensive and more proactive. We are seeing a concerted effort to persuade shareholders of the wisdom of management’s choices and practices.’ Reaching out to activists, then, could form an increasingly important part of an IR professional’s role.

Diverse interests

The Linklaters study reveals that the number of shareholders with a stated activist strategy has more than doubled within the last decade, while activism is now spread across a more diversified range of sectors than ever before, including services and technology (see How activist targets have changed below).

How activist targets have changed
David Drake, president of proxy solicitation firm Georgeson, says shareholder activists are most often to be found in business sectors or industries that have recently underperformed.
‘There tends to be a rotation of industries based on relative valuation of companies in that industry,’ he explains. ‘If you find an industry where there are a significant number of underperforming companies or companies that are trading at lower multiples than the market as a whole, and investors see opportunities to close that gap, those industries could represent the next haven for activist input.
Drake, a frequent speaker and writer on proxy fights and investor activism, has spent more than 20 years working in shareholder-facing roles. Prior to joining Georgeson in 1997, he served as a senior analyst and director of US research at ISS, and remains a member of several trade bodies. Targets for activism are not determined by industry alone, he notes.
‘I do tend to look at things a little differently,’ he points out. ‘I usually look at prime targets for activism around different themes that make companies attractive to activist funds or investors.’
In most cases, Drake says, these will be companies with an excess of cash, though firms that are – or appear to be – conglomerates with multiple lines of business are also prime targets. ‘The platform for the dissident investor would perhaps be for the spin-off of a particular part of the business that might add value, or restructuring that may produce at least a short-term benefit, if not a long-term one,’ he explains.

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La disqualification des candidats administrateurs qui sont rétribués par les activistes | Carl Icahn


Un grand débat fait présentement rage dans le monde des actionnaires activistes : la dénonciation des amendements apportés aux règlements internes de l’entreprise (Bylaws) qui ont pour buts de disqualifier les candidats aux postes d’administrateurs qui sont rémunérés par les actionnaires activistes en vue de leur élection lors des assemblées annuelles.

L’article ci-joint, publié par Carl Icahn dans le Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, tente de justifier la façon de faire des activistes en montrant que cette approche est le nouveau moyen de défense utilisé par certaines organisations pour bloquer la venue de nouveaux administrateurs « dissidents ».  L’adoption de cet amendement se fait sans le consentement des actionnaires.

Je vous propose donc la lecture de la position de M. Icahn lui-même sur cette question. Il présente un ensemble d’arguments soutenant le droit des actionnaires à une représentation qui relève d’eux, et non de la direction ou des administrateurs en place !

Quel est votre point de vue sur les moyens de défense utilisés par les organisations qui sont les cibles des actionnaires activistes organisés ? Voici un court extrait de l’article pour vous mettre en contexte.

Disqualifying Dissident Nominees: A New Trend in Incumbent Director Entrenchment

There are many good, independent boards of directors at public companies in the United States. Unfortunately, there are also many ineffectual boards composed of cronies of CEOs and management teams, and such boards routinely use corporate capital to hire high-priced “advisors” to design defense mechanisms, such as the staggered board and poison pill, that serve to insulate them from criticism. Recently, these advisors have created a particularly pernicious new mechanism to protect their deep-pocketed clients—a bylaw amendment (which we call the “Director Disqualification Bylaw”) that disqualifies certain people from seeking to replace incumbent members of a board of directors.

Image representing Carl Icahn as depicted in C...

Under a Director Disqualification Bylaw, a person is not eligible for election to the board of directors if he is nominated by a shareholder and the shareholder has agreed to pay the nominee a fee, such as a cash payment to compensate the nominee for taking the time and effort to seek election in a proxy fight, or compensation that is tied to performance of the company. [1]

We believe that the Director Disqualification Bylaw is totally misguided. It is absolutely offensive for an incumbent board to unilaterally adopt a Director Disqualification Bylaw without shareholder approval, and shareholders should also reject a Director Disqualification Bylaw if their incumbent board puts one up for a vote in the future. For the reasons explained below, we believe it is more appropriate for shareholders to continue, as they have in the past, to evaluate candidates individually based on their merits, including their experience, relationships and interests, all of which is required to be fully disclosed in a proxy statement.

As of November 30, 2013, thirty-three (33) public companies had unilaterally (i.e. without shareholder approval) amended their bylaws to include a Director Disqualification Bylaw. [2] In response, on January 13, 2014, Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) stated that it may recommend a vote against or withhold from directors that adopt a Director Disqualification Bylaw without shareholder approval. In adopting this new policy position, ISS noted, as we do below, that “the ability to elect directors is a fundamental shareholder right” and that Director Disqualification Bylaws “unnecessarily infringe on this core franchise right.”

_________________________________

Carl Icahn is the majority shareholder of Icahn Enterprises. The following post is based on a commentary featured today at the Shareholders’ Square Table.

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Histoire récente de l’essor des investisseurs activistes | Conditions favorables et avenir prévisible ?


Ce matin, je vous convie à une lecture révélatrice des facteurs qui contribuent aux changements de fond observés dans la gouvernance des grandes sociétés cotées, lesquels sont provoqués par les interventions croissantes des grands investisseurs activistes.

Cet article de quatre pages, publié par John J. Madden de la firme Shearman & Sterling, et paru sur le blogue du Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, présente les raisons de l’intensification de l’influence des investisseurs dans la stratégie et la direction des entreprises, donc de la gouvernance, un domaine du ressort du conseil d’administration, représentants des actionnaires … et des parties prenantes.

English: Study on alternative investments by i...
English: Study on alternative investments by institutional investors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Après avoir expliqué l’évolution récente dans le monde de la gouvernance, l’auteur brosse un tableau plutôt convainquant des facteurs d’accélération de l’influence des activistes eu égard aux orientations stratégiques.

Les raisons qui expliquent ces changements peuvent être résumées de la manière suivante :

  1. Un changement d’attitude des grands investisseurs, représentant maintenant 66 % du capital des grandes corporations, qui conduit à des intérêts de plus en plus centrés sur l’accroissement de la valeur ajoutée pour les actionnaires;
  2. Un nombre accru de campagnes (+ de 50 %) initiées par des activistes lesquelles se traduisent par des victoires de plus en plus éclatantes;
  3. Un retour sur l’investissement élevé (13 % entre 2009 et 2012) accompagné par des méthodes analytiques plus sophistiquées et plus crédibles (livres blancs);
  4. Un accroissement du capital disponible notamment par l’apport de plus en plus grand des investisseurs institutionnels (fonds de pension, compagnies d’assurance, fonds commun de placement, caisses de retraite, etc.);
  5. Un affaiblissement dans les moyens de défense des C.A. et une meilleure communication entre les actionnaires;
  6. Un intérêt de plus en plus marqué des C.A. et de la direction par un engagement avec les investisseurs activistes.

 

À l’avenir, les activistes vont intensifier leurs efforts pour exiger des changements organisationnels significatifs (accroissement des dividendes, réorganisation des unités d’affaires, modification des règles de gouvernance, présence sur les conseils, séparation des rôles de PCD et PCA, alignement de la rémunération des dirigeants avec la performance, etc.).

Ci-dessous, un extrait des passages les plus significatifs. Bonne lecture !

The Evolving Direction and Increasing Influence of Shareholder Activism

One of the signal developments in 2012 was the emerging growth of the form of shareholder activism that is focused on the actual business and operations of public companies. We noted that “one of the most important trendline features of

2012 has been the increasing amount of strategic or operational activism. That is, shareholders pressuring boards not on classic governance subjects but on the actual strategic direction or management of the business of the corporation.”… Several of these reform initiatives of the past decade continue to be actively pursued. More recently, however, the most significant development in the activism sphere has been in strategically-focused or operationally-focused activism led largely by hedge funds.

The 2013 Acceleration of “Operational” Activism

Some of this operational activism in the past few years was largely short-term return focused (for example, pressing to lever up balance sheets to pay extraordinary dividends or repurchase shares), arguably at the potential risk of longer-term corporate prosperity, or simply sought to force corporate dispositions; and certainly there continues to be activism with that focus. But there has also emerged another category of activism, principally led by hedge funds, that brings a sophisticated analytical approach to critically examining corporate strategy and capital management and that has been able to attract the support of mainstream institutional investors, industry analysts and other market participants. And this growing support has now positioned these activists to make substantial investments in even the largest public companies. Notable recent examples include ValueAct’s $2.2 billion investment in Microsoft (0.8%), Third Point’s $1.4 billion investment in Sony (7%), Pershing Square’s $2 billion investment in Procter & Gamble (1%) and its $2.2 billion investment in Air Products & Chemicals (9.8%), Relational Investor’s $600 million investment in PepsiCo (under 1%), and Trian Fund Management’s investments of $1.2 billion in DuPont (2.2%) and of more than $1 billion in each of PepsiCo and Mondelez. Interestingly, these investors often embark on these initiatives to influence corporate direction and decision-making with relatively small stakes when measured against the company’s total outstanding equity—as in Microsoft, P&G, DuPont and PepsiCo, for example; as well as in Greenlight Capital’s 1.3 million share investment in Apple, Carl Icahn’s 5.4% stake in Transocean, and Elliot Management’s 4.5% stake in Hess Corp.

In many cases, these activists target companies with strong underlying businesses that they believe can be restructured or better managed to improve shareholder value. Their focus is generally on companies with underperforming share prices (often over extended periods of time) and on those where business strategies have failed to create value or where boards are seen as poor stewards of capital.

Reasons for the Current Expansion of Operational Activism

Evolving Attitudes of Institutional Investors.

… Taken together, these developments have tended to test the level of confidence institutional investors have in the ability of some boards to act in a timely and decisive fashion to adjust corporate direction, or address challenging issues, when necessary in the highly competitive, complex and global markets in which businesses operate. And they suggest a greater willingness of investors to listen to credible external sources with new ideas that are intelligently and professionally presented.

Tangible evidence of this evolution includes the setting up by several leading institutional investors such as BlackRock, CalSTRS and T. Rowe Price of their own internal teams to assess governance practices and corporate strategies to find ways to improve corporate performance. As the head of BlackRock’s Corporate Governance and Responsible Investor team recently commented, “We can have very productive and credible conversations with managements and boards about a range of issues—governance, performance and strategy.”

Increasing Activist Campaigns Generally; More Challenger Success. The increasing number of activist campaigns challenging incumbent boards—and the increasing success by challengers—creates an encouraging market environment for operational activism. According to ISS, the resurgence of contested board elections, which began in 2012, continued into the 2013 proxy season. Proxy contests to replace some or all incumbent directors went from 9 in the first half of 2009 to 19 in the first half of 2012 and 24 in the first half of 2013. And the dissident win rate has increased significantly, from 43% in 2012 to 70% in 2013.  Additionally, in July 2013, Citigroup reported that the number of $1 billion + activist campaigns was expected to reach over 90 for 2013, about 50% more than in 2012.

Attractive Investment Returns; Increasing Sophistication and Credibility. While this form of activism has certainly shown mixed results in recent periods (Pershing Square’s substantial losses in both J.C. Penney and Target have been among the most well-publicized examples of failed initiatives), the overall recent returns have been strong. Accordingly to Hedge Fund Research in Chicago, activist hedge funds were up 9.6% for the first half of 2013, and they returned an average of nearly 13% between 2009 and 2012.

In many instances, these activists develop sophisticated and detailed business and strategic analyses—which are presented in “white papers” that are provided to boards and managements and often broadly disseminated—that enhance their credibility and help secure the support, it not of management, of other institutional shareholders.

Increasing Investment Capital Available; Greater Mainstream Institutional Support. The increasing ability of activist hedge funds to raise new money not only bolsters their firepower, but also operates to further solidify the support they garner from the mainstream institutional investor community (a principal source of their investment base). According to Hedge Fund Research, total assets under management by activist hedge funds has doubled in the past four years to $84 billion today. And through August this year their 2013 inflows reached $4.7 billion, the highest inflows since 2006.  Particularly noteworthy in this regard, Pershing Square’s recent $2.2 billion investment in Air Products & Chemicals was funded in part with capital raised for a standalone fund dedicated specifically to Air Products, without disclosing the target’s name to investors.

In addition to making capital available, mainstream institutions are demonstrating greater support for these activists more generally. In a particularly interesting vote earlier this year, at the May annual meeting of Timken Co., 53% of the shareholders voting supported the non-binding shareholder proposal to split the company in two, which had been submitted jointly by Relational Investors (holding a 6.9% stake) and pension fund CalSTRS (holding 0.4%). To build shareholder support for their proposal, Relational and CalSTRS reached out to investors both in person and through the internet. Relational ran a website (unlocktimken . com) including detailed presentations and supportive analyst reports. They also secured the support of ISS and Glass Lewis. Four months after the vote, in September, Timken announced that it had decided to spin off its steel-making business.

The Timken case is but one example of the leading and influential proxy advisory firms to institutional investors increasingly supporting activists. Their activist support has been particularly noticeable in the context of activists seeking board representation in nominating a minority of directors to boards.

These changes suggest a developing blurring of the lines between activists and mainstream institutions. And it may be somewhat reminiscent of the evolution of unsolicited takeovers, which were largely shunned by the established business and financial communities in the early 1980s, although once utilized by a few blue-chip companies they soon became a widely accepted acquisition technique.

Weakened Board-Controlled Defenses; Increasing Communication Among Shareholders. The largely successful efforts over the past decade by certain pension funds and other shareholder-oriented organizations to press for declassifying boards, redeeming poison pills and adopting majority voting in director elections have diminished the defenses available to boards in resisting change of control initiatives and other activist challenges. Annual board elections and the availability of “withhold” voting in the majority voting context increases director vulnerability to investor pressure.

And shareholders, particularly institutional shareholders and their representative organizations, are better organized today for taking action in particular situations. The increasing and more sophisticated forms of communication among shareholders—including through the use of social media—is part of the broader trend towards greater dialogue between mainstream institutions and their activist counterparts. In his recent op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, Carl Icahn said he would use social media to make more shareholders aware of their rights and how to protect them, writing that he had set up a Twitter account for that purpose (with over 80,000 followers so far) and that he was establishing a forum called the Shareholders Square Table to further these aims.

Corporate Boards and Managements More Inclined to Engage with Activists. The several developments referenced above have together contributed to the greater willingness today of boards and managements to engage in dialogue with activists who take investments in their companies, and to try to avoid actual proxy contests.

One need only look at the recent DuPont and Microsoft situations to have a sense of this evolution toward engagement and dialogue. After Trian surfaced with its investment in DuPont, the company’s spokesperson said in August 2013: “We are aware of Trian’s investment and, as always, we routinely engage with our shareholders and welcome constructive input. We will evaluate any ideas Trian may have in the context of our ongoing initiatives to build a higher value, higher growth company for our shareholders.” Also in August, Microsoft announced its agreement with ValueAct to allow the activist to meet regularly with the company’s management and selected directors and give the activist a board seat next year; thereby avoiding a potential proxy contest for board representation by ValueAct. Soon thereafter, on September 17, Microsoft announced that it would raise its quarterly dividend by 22% and renew its $40 billion share buyback program; with the company’s CFO commenting that this reflected Microsoft’s continued commitment to returning cash to its shareholders.

What to Expect Ahead

The confluence of the factors identified above has accelerated the recent expansion of operational activism, and there is no reason in the current market environment to expect that this form of activism will abate in the near term. In fact, the likelihood is that it will continue to expand… Looking ahead, we fully expect to see continuing efforts to press for the structural governance reforms that have been pursued over the past several years. Campaigns to separate the Chair and CEO roles at selected companies will likely continue to draw attention as they did most prominently this year at JPMorgan Chase. And executive compensation will remain an important subject of investor attention, and of shareholder proposals, at many companies where there is perceived to be a lack of alignment between pay and performance. We can also expect that the further development of operational activism, and seeing how boards respond to it, will be a central feature of the governance landscape in the year ahead.

Finding Value in Shareholder Activism (clsbluesky.law.columbia.edu)

The Corporate Social Responsibility Report and Effective Stakeholder Engagement (venitism.blogspot.com)

The Evolving Direction and Increasing Influence of Shareholder Activism (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

Shareholder activism on the rise in Canada (business.financialpost.com)

Dealing With Activist Hedge Funds (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

American Activist Investors Get Ready To Invade Europe (forbes.com)

Activist Investors Help Companies, Not Workers – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)

The Separation of Ownership from Ownership (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

Réflexions capitales pour les Boards en 2014 – The Harvard Law School (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

Shareholder Activism as a Corrective Mechanism in Corporate Governance by Paul Rose, Bernard S. Sharfman (togovern.wordpress.com)

Qu’est-ce qu’une « contestation » pour le contrôle d’une entreprise ?


On assiste à de plus en plus de « contestations » de la part d’actionnaires activistes pour l’obtention du contrôle des entreprises cotées.

Qu’est-ce qu’une campagne de contestation (proxy contest) ? Quelles formes ces contestations prennent-elles ? Quels raisons incitent certains actionnaires activistes à aller de l’avant avec leurs propositions de changement ? Que peuvent faire les conseils d’administration pour se préparer à une attaque éventuelle et pour se protéger efficacement ?

Le document, préparé conjointement par Corporate Board Member du NYSE et Kroll, un leader mondial dans le conseil en gouvernance, répond très bien à ces questions. Voici un court extrait d’un article où Bob Brenner, associé de  Kroll, répond aux questions. Bonne lecture.

Proxy Contests and Corporate Control 

 

In general, the term corporate contest refers to several different situations in which a shareholder(s) or other corporate entity tries to force a change of control in a company. The two most common situations where we get involved are proxy fights and takeover attempts.

Proxy fights generally arise in two types of situations. In the first, an existing shareholder(s) seeks board representation to change corporate behavior or governance because the shareholder is unhappy with the company’s performance and the unwillingness of the board of directors to alter course or change the status quo. Typically, such a contest begins after quiet, protracted negotiation between the board/management and a prominent shareholder, during which the shareholder expresses ideas for change or displeasure with policy or direction and is rebuffed.

P1010745The second type of proxy fight, which we describe as “opportunistic,” does not start with an existing investment or position. Instead, it is marked by a rapid accumulation of stock by a new shareholder. The shareholder, or group of shareholders, acquires the stock on the premise that the board and/or management is failing to maximize the company’s assets. If the new shareholder can pressure the company to change policy, management, or board composition, fine. If not, they are prepared to force the issue.

“Activist” investors have had great success in these types of corporate contests. Typically, they target companies that have seen a decrease in share price over time. The well-funded activist investor claims to be ready, able, and more than willing to roll up its sleeves and implement change.

Historically, outright unsolicited or hostile takeover bids have formed a large part of the corporate contest world. In the case of a takeover bid, one corporate entity offers to buy another, frequently a competitor or an entity with a good synergistic fit. In far fewer instances, an activist shareholder may desire to purchase the outstanding shares of an entity from existing shareholders in order to obtain control of that entity so that it may effectuate immediate change. These types of contests are rarely launched by activist funds as these efforts require large amounts of capital to be sunk into one investment, a tactic that hedge funds generally try to avoid. True hostile takeover bids have declined in recent years.

Proxy Contests on the Rise – Activists Emboldened by Success (levick.com)

Statistiques sur les « Proxy Contests » (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

Career Consequences of Proxy Contests (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

Investor hints at proxy fight with Bob Evans because of ‘board’s apathetic posture’ (bizjournals.com)

Board Members Versus Hedge Fund Activists (venitism.blogspot.com)

Boards Should Minimize the Role of Proxy Advisors (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

Sérieux rapprochement entre les actionnaires activistes et les actionnaires institutionnels


Je vous invite à lire cet article de Vincent Ryan paru dans Capital Markets du site CFO. On y décrit un changement significatif dans l’influence que peuvent exercer les actionnaires des grandes sociétés cotées en se rapprochant des positions des activistes, lesquels ont un solide parcours (Track Record). Voici un extrait de ce court article.

Bonne lecture. Vos commentaires sont les bienvenus !

Management and the board of directors may assume that a company’s institutional shareholders will be their allies in a fight against an activist investor. They shouldn’t.

 Shareholders Getting Chummy with Activists

Shareholder activists continue to take on boards of directors and management, especially at large companies. Of the 137 financial or board-seat activist campaigns announced as of August 12, nearly 30 percent involved companies with a market capitalization of more than $1 billion at the time the campaign was initiated, according to SharkRepellent.net, up from 20 percent in 2012.

While companies may just be more vulnerable to activist campaigns, experts say a key driver is that institutional shareholders are more often embracing these much-maligned investors instead of siding with the company against them.

“There is real change in how activists are perceived by the investing public,” says Alexander Khutorsky, managing director of The Valence Group, a specialist investment bank. In the past, if an institutional investor didn’t like a company’s performance or its management team, it “voted with its feet” and sold the shares. But now many investors are “more open to outsider influence,” says Khutorsky. “They’re willing to concede that a company could be made better through activism, so they are sticking around and voting for changes.”

A note from SharkRepellent.net highlights “an increased willingness by mainstream mutual funds and other institutional investors to side with activists, which is absolutely essential [for a hedge fund] to effect changes with a small ownership stake, as they often do when targeting larger companies.”

The goals of activists often align with investors: returning excess balance-sheet cash to shareholders, selling underperforming or noncore business units or even ousting an ineffective board of directors.

“As much as management may feel they are being attacked, their shareholders will not necessarily share that view,” Khutorsky says.

In addition, activist investors have a “good track record” of creating value, at least in the nominal sense, says Khutorsky. “The stock [often] goes up so they can show very straightforward returns; they’re not necessarily creating long-term value, but they have credibility in helping shareholders realize near-term value,” he says.

 Articles reliés au sujet des activistes :

Adjusting to Shareholder Activism as the New Normal (blogs.law.harvard.edu)

How You Can Profit from the Actions of Activist Investors (business2community.com)

What to Do When an Activist Comes Knocking (clsbluesky.law.columbia.edu)

The value of activist shareholders (lawprofessors.typepad.com)

How institutional investors have come to recognize the value of activist investing (valuewalk.com)

Marty Lipton: Shareholder Champion, Stakeholder Protector or Management Tool? (aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com)

L’effet à long terme des fonds d’investissement activistes


Voici les résultats d’une étude empirique réalisée par un groupe de chercheurs éminents : Lucian Bebchuk*, Harvard Law School, Alon Brav, Duke University, et Wei Jiang, Columbia Business School, et publiée dans le Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation le 19 août 2013. Selon les auteurs, cette étude démontre que les activités des investisseurs activistes (Hedge Funds) n’ont pas d’effets négatifs sur les intérêts à long-terme des entreprises et de leurs actionnaires.

Les résultats de l’étude indiquent que les comportements des actionnaires activistes ont même des effets positifs à long terme, contrairement aux prétentions de plusieurs opposants de ces activités insuffisamment règlementées. Nous avons souvent discuté de cette problématique sur notre blogue mais c’est la première fois que nous présentons les résultats d’une recherche scientifique aussi importante.

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance du résumé de cette étude en consultant le document ci-dessous.

The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism

Voici un résumé des principaux articles parus sur notre blogue depuis deux ans.

Interventionnisme des investisseurs activistes VS défenseurs de l’autorité des C.A.

9 août 2013

Il y a deux grands courants de pensée qui divisent le monde de la gouvernance et qui s’opposent “royalement” :

(1) celui des investisseurs activistes qui tentent de tirer profit des failles perçues dans les orientations et la gestion des grandes entreprises cotées, en investissant massivement dans celles-ci et en proposant des changements radicaux de stratégies (fusion, restructuration, recapitalisation, contestation des PCD et des membres de conseils, etc…).

Selon ce groupe, les actionnaires sont rois et on se doit d’intervenir lorsque les entreprises ne sont pas gérées efficacement.

(2) celui des défenseurs de l’autorité des C.A. dans leurs rôles de fiduciaires, représentant les intérêts des actionnaires et des autres parties prenantes.

Selon ce groupe, ce sont les conseils d’administration qui prennent les décisions de nature stratégique en fonction de l’intérêt à long terme des entreprises. Les autorités règlementaires doivent donc intervenir pour restreindre les activités des investissements “court-termistes” […].

Comment contrer la nature insidieuse du capitalisme financier ?

3 août 2013

QuantcastVoici un document émanant d’une présentation d’Yvan Allaire* à la conférence nationale de l’Institut des administrateurs de sociétés (Institute of Corporate Directors) à Toronto le 22 mai 2013 dont le thème était Shareholder Activism: Short vs. Long-termism. Dans son article, l’auteur prend une position affirmative en tentant d’expliquer les comportements court-termistes des actionnaires (investisseurs) activistes. Ce document mérite que l’on s’y penche pour réfléchir à trois questions fondamentales en gouvernance. Les questions soulevées dans le document sont les suivantes :

(1) La gestion avec une perspective court-termiste représente-t-elle un problème sérieux ?

(2) Les investisseurs activistes sont-ils des joueurs court-termistes dont les actions ont des conséquences négatives pour les entreprises à long terme ?

(3) Les conseils d’administration des sociétés canadiennes doivent-ils être mieux protégés des actions des investisseurs activistes et des offres d’achat hostiles ? […]

Comment préserver le fragile équilibre entre les principaux acteurs de la gouvernance ?

13 mai 2013

J’ai choisi de partager avec les lecteurs un article de Holly J. Gregory, associé de Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, paru sur le blogue de Harvard Law School Forum (HLSF) on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation. Ce billet présente un solide argumentaire en faveur de la préservation d’un juste équilibre entre les principaux acteurs de la gouvernance : les actionnaires, les administrateurs, les managers, les conseillers et les autorités règlementaires.
Il est clair que le conseil d’administration, élu par les actionnaires, a toujours la responsabilité de l’orientation, de la surveillance et du suivi de l’organisation. Mais l’environnement de la gouvernance a changé et les actionnaires peuvent maintenant se référer aux avis exprimés par les firmes spécialisées de conseils en procuration pour mieux faire entendre leurs voix.L’auteur tente de clarifier les rôles de tous les acteurs en insistant sur les équilibres fragiles à préserver dans la gouvernance des sociétés […]

Questionnement sur le comportement des fonds activistes !

2 avril 2013

QuantcastDans ce billet, nous présentons une solide prise de position sur le comportement des fonds activistes (“hedge funds”) par Martin Lipton, partenaire fondateur de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, et publiée dans Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance. L’auteur montre comment les fonds activistes peuvent souvent agir en fonction d’intérêts contraires aux actionnaires. L’auteur soulève une multitude de questions qui doivent trouver des réponses adéquates […]

Les PCD (CEO) prennent de plus en plus conscience de l’influence déterminante exercée par les actionnaires sur les C.A. !

23 novembre 2012

Voici une excellente revue, parue dans Bloomberg Businessweek, au sujet de l’interventionnisme croissant des investisseurs institutionnels dans les décisions des conseils d’administration.  On assiste à un changement significatif du comportement des grands investisseurs qui se joignent de plus en plus aux groupes d’actionnaires activistes pour exiger des changements dans le management de l’entreprise, plus particulièrement dans la conduite du PCD (CEO).

Les PCD sont de plus en plus conscients de l’influence significative des actionnaires et des grands investisseurs dans la gestion de l’entreprise; ils apprennent à reconnaître qui est le réel patron de l’organisation (le C.A., de plus en plus influencé par l’activisme des actionnaires).

L’article résume la situation de la manière suivante : “As big investors press Boards, the number of directors who failed to win majorities in shareholder votes has almost tripled since 2006″. […]

Discussion sur l’activisme des actionnaires !

11 septembre 2012
Dans son blogue, Governance Gateway, Richard Leblanc exprime son point de vue  (1) sur les raisons qui incitent les actionnaires activistes à intervenir dans les activités des entreprises, et (2) sur le concept d’actionnariat au sens large. L’auteur tente de répondre à plusieurs questions fondamentales :
Quelles sont les responsabilités des conseils d’administration dans les cas d’activisme des actionnaires et d’offres d’achat non-sollicitées ?
Quel est le devoir du C.A. envers les actionnaires … et envers les parties prenantes ?
Comment définir la “valeur” des actionnaires ?
Quelle est la place des consultants dans ce processus ?
Autant de questions auxquelles l’auteur tente d’apporter des réponses sensés. Ce sont des prises de positions qui peuvent avoir de grandes incidences sur le modèle de gouvernance existant ! […]

Les enjeux du C.A. et du management face aux actionnaires activistes !

4 décembre 2011

Le Conference Board publie un compte rendu d’experts sur l’activisme des actionnaires en période d’incertitude. The recent Governance Watch webcast, Shareholder Activism in Uncertain Times, raised important questions for both management and boards to consider in the midst of an economic climate that is making many companies particularly. […]

_________________________________________________________________

Ci-dessous un extrait de l’article de Bebchuk et al.

We recently completed an empirical study, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism, that tests the empirical validity of a claim that has been playing a central role in debates on corporate governance – the claim that interventions by activist shareholders, and in particular activist hedge funds, have an adverse effect on the long-term interests of companies and their shareholders. While this “myopic activists” claim has been regularly invoked and has had considerable influence, its supporters have thus far failed to back it up with evidence. Our study presents a comprehensive emp  irical investigation of this claim. Our findings have important policy implications for ongoing policy debates on corporate governance and the rights and role of shareholders…

… Our study uses a dataset consisting of the full universe of approximately 2,000 interventions by activist hedge funds during the period 1994–2007. We identify for each activist effort the month (the intervention month) in which the activist initiative was first publicly disclosed (usually through the filing of a Schedule 13D). Using the data on operating performance and stock returns of public companies during the period 1991-2012, we track the operating performance and stock returns for companies during a long period – five years – following the intervention month. We also examine the three-year period that precedes activist interventions and that follows activists’ departure.

Hauser Hall
Hauser Hall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Starting with operating performance, we find that operating performance improves following activist interventions and there is no evidence that the improved performance comes at the expense of performance later on. During the third, fourth, and fifth year following the start of an activist intervention, operating performance tends to be better, not worse, than during the pre-intervention period. Thus, during the long, five-year time window that we examine, the declines in operating performance asserted by supporters of the myopic activism claim are not found in the data. We also find that activists tend to target companies that are underperforming relative to industry peers at the time of the intervention, not well-performing ones.

We then turn to stock returns following the initial stock price spike that is well-known to accompany activist interventions. We first find that, consistent with the results obtained with respect to pre-intervention operating performance, targets of activists have negative abnormal returns during the three years preceding the intervention. We then proceed to examine whether, as supporters of the myopic activism claim believe, the initial stock price reflects inefficient market pricing that fails to reflect the long-term costs of the activist intervention and is thus followed by stock return underperformance in the long term.

In investigating the presence of negative abnormal returns during this period, we employ three standard methods used by financial economists for detecting stock return underperformance. In particular, the study examines: first, whether the returns to targeted companies were systematically lower than what would be expected given standard asset pricing models; second, whether the returns to targeted companies were lower than those of “matched” firms that are similar in terms of size and book to market; and, third, whether a portfolio based on taking positions in activism targets and holding them for five years underperforms relative to its risk characteristics. Using each of these methods, we find no evidence of the asserted reversal of fortune during the five-year period following the intervention. The long-term underperformance asserted by supporters of the myopic activism claim, and the resulting losses to long-term shareholders resulting from activist interventions, are not found in the data.

We also analyze whether activists cash out their stakes before negative stock returns occur and impose losses on remaining long-term shareholders. Because activist hedge funds have been documented to deliver adequate returns to their own investors, such a pattern is a necessary condition for long-term shareholders being made worse off by activist interventions. We therefore examine whether targets of activist hedge funds experience negative abnormal returns in the three years after an activist discloses that its holdings fell below the 5% threshold that subjects investors to significant disclosure requirements. Again using the three standard methods for detecting the existence of abnormal stock returns, we find no evidence that long-term shareholders experience negative stock returns during the three years following the partial or full cashing out of an activist’s stake.

We next turn to examine the two subsets of activist interventions that are most resisted and criticized – first, interventions that lower or constrain long-term investments by enhancing leverage, beefing up shareholder payouts, or reducing investments and, second, adversarial interventions employing hostile tactics. In both cases, interventions are followed by improvements in operating performance during the five-year period following the intervention, and no evidence is found for the adverse long-term effects asserted by opponents.

Finally, we examine whether activist interventions render targeted companies more vulnerable to economic shocks. In particular, we examine whether companies targeted by activist interventions during the years preceding the financial crisis were hit more in the subsequent crisis. We find no evidence that pre-crisis interventions by activists were associated with greater declines in operating performance or higher incidence of financial distress during the crisis.

Our findings that the data does not support the claims and empirical predictions of those holding the myopic activism view have significant implications for ongoing policy debates. Going forward, policymakers and institutional investors should not accept the validity of assertions that interventions by hedge funds are followed by long-term adverse consequences for companies and their long-term shareholders. The use of such claims as a basis for limiting shareholder rights and involvement should be rejected.

Our study is available here.

________________________________________________________

*Lucian Bebchuk is Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance at Harvard Law School. Alon Brav is Professor of Finance at Duke University. Wei Jiang, Professor of Finance at Columbia Business School. This post is based on their study, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism, available here. An op-ed about the article published in the Wall Street Journal summarizing the results of the study is available here.

L’effet à long terme des fonds d’investissement activistes


Voici les résultats d’une étude empirique réalisée par un groupe de chercheurs éminents : Lucian Bebchuk, Harvard Law School, Alon Brav, Duke University, et Wei Jiang, Columbia Business School, et publiée dans le Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation le 19 août 2013. Selon les auteurs, cette étude démontre que les activités des investisseurs activistes (Hedge Funds) n’ont pas d’effets négatifs sur les intérêts à long-terme des entreprises et de leurs actionnaires.

Les résultats de l’étude indiquent que les comportements des actionnaires activistes ont même des effets positifs à long terme, contrairement aux prétentions de plusieurs opposants de ces activités insuffisamment règlementées. Nous avons souvent discuté de cette problématique sur notre blogue mais c’est la première fois que nous présentons les résultats d’une recherche scientifique aussi importante.

Je vous invite à prendre connaissance du résumé de cette étude en consultant le document ci-dessous.

The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism

Voici un résumé des principaux articles parus sur notre blogue depuis deux ans.

Interventionnisme des investisseurs activistes VS défenseurs de l’autorité des C.A.

9 août 2013

Il y a deux grands courants de pensée qui divisent le monde de la gouvernance et qui s’opposent “royalement” :

(1) celui des investisseurs activistes qui tentent de tirer profit des failles perçues dans les orientations et la gestion des grandes entreprises cotées, en investissant massivement dans celles-ci et en proposant des changements radicaux de stratégies (fusion, restructuration, recapitalisation, contestation des PCD et des membres de conseils, etc…).

Selon ce groupe, les actionnaires sont rois et on se doit d’intervenir lorsque les entreprises ne sont pas gérées efficacement.

(2) celui des défenseurs de l’autorité des C.A. dans leurs rôles de fiduciaires, représentant les intérêts des actionnaires et des autres parties prenantes.

Selon ce groupe, ce sont les conseils d’administration qui prennent les décisions de nature stratégique en fonction de l’intérêt à long terme des entreprises. Les autorités règlementaires doivent donc intervenir pour restreindre les activités des investissements “court-termistes” […].

Comment contrer la nature insidieuse du capitalisme financier ?

3 août 2013

QuantcastVoici un document émanant d’une présentation d’Yvan Allaire* à la conférence nationale de l’Institut des administrateurs de sociétés (Institute of Corporate Directors) à Toronto le 22 mai 2013 dont le thème était Shareholder Activism: Short vs. Long-termism. Dans son article, l’auteur prend une position affirmative en tentant d’expliquer les comportements court-termistes des actionnaires (investisseurs) activistes. Ce document mérite que l’on s’y penche pour réfléchir à trois questions fondamentales en gouvernance. Les questions soulevées dans le document sont les suivantes :

(1) La gestion avec une perspective court-termiste représente-t-elle un problème sérieux ?

(2) Les investisseurs activistes sont-ils des joueurs court-termistes dont les actions ont des conséquences négatives pour les entreprises à long terme ?

(3) Les conseils d’administration des sociétés canadiennes doivent-ils être mieux protégés des actions des investisseurs activistes et des offres d’achat hostiles ? […]

Comment préserver le fragile équilibre entre les principaux acteurs de la gouvernance ?

13 mai 2013

J’ai choisi de partager avec les lecteurs un article de Holly J. Gregory, associé de Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, paru sur le blogue de Harvard Law School Forum (HLSF) on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation. Ce billet présente un solide argumentaire en faveur de la préservation d’un juste équilibre entre les principaux acteurs de la gouvernance : les actionnaires, les administrateurs, les managers, les conseillers et les autorités règlementaires.
Il est clair que le conseil d’administration, élu par les actionnaires, a toujours la responsabilité de l’orientation, de la surveillance et du suivi de l’organisation. Mais l’environnement de la gouvernance a changé et les actionnaires peuvent maintenant se référer aux avis exprimés par les firmes spécialisées de conseils en procuration pour mieux faire entendre leurs voix.L’auteur tente de clarifier les rôles de tous les acteurs en insistant sur les équilibres fragiles à préserver dans la gouvernance des sociétés […]

Questionnement sur le comportement des fonds activistes !

2 avril 2013

QuantcastDans ce billet, nous présentons une solide prise de position sur le comportement des fonds activistes (“hedge funds”) par Martin Lipton, partenaire fondateur de la firme Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, et publiée dans Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance. L’auteur montre comment les fonds activistes peuvent souvent agir en fonction d’intérêts contraires aux actionnaires. L’auteur soulève une multitude de questions qui doivent trouver des réponses adéquates […]

Les PCD (CEO) prennent de plus en plus conscience de l’influence déterminante exercée par les actionnaires sur les C.A. !

23 novembre 2012

Voici une excellente revue, parue dans Bloomberg Businessweek, au sujet de l’interventionnisme croissant des investisseurs institutionnels dans les décisions des conseils d’administration.  On assiste à un changement significatif du comportement des grands investisseurs qui se joignent de plus en plus aux groupes d’actionnaires activistes pour exiger des changements dans le management de l’entreprise, plus particulièrement dans la conduite du PCD (CEO).

Les PCD sont de plus en plus conscients de l’influence significative des actionnaires et des grands investisseurs dans la gestion de l’entreprise; ils apprennent à reconnaître qui est le réel patron de l’organisation (le C.A., de plus en plus influencé par l’activisme des actionnaires).

L’article résume la situation de la manière suivante : “As big investors press Boards, the number of directors who failed to win majorities in shareholder votes has almost tripled since 2006″. […]

Discussion sur l’activisme des actionnaires !

11 septembre 2012
Dans son blogue, Governance Gateway, Richard Leblanc exprime son point de vue  (1) sur les raisons qui incitent les actionnaires activistes à intervenir dans les activités des entreprises, et (2) sur le concept d’actionnariat au sens large. L’auteur tente de répondre à plusieurs questions fondamentales :
Quelles sont les responsabilités des conseils d’administration dans les cas d’activisme des actionnaires et d’offres d’achat non-sollicitées ?
Quel est le devoir du C.A. envers les actionnaires … et envers les parties prenantes ?
Comment définir la “valeur” des actionnaires ?
Quelle est la place des consultants dans ce processus ?
Autant de questions auxquelles l’auteur tente d’apporter des réponses sensés. Ce sont des prises de positions qui peuvent avoir de grandes incidences sur le modèle de gouvernance existant ! […]

Les enjeux du C.A. et du management face aux actionnaires activistes !

4 décembre 2011

Le Conference Board publie un compte rendu d’experts sur l’activisme des actionnaires en période d’incertitude. The recent Governance Watch webcast, Shareholder Activism in Uncertain Times, raised important questions for both management and boards to consider in the midst of an economic climate that is making many companies particularly. […]

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Ci-dessous un extrait de l’article de Bebchuk et al.

We recently completed an empirical study, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism, that tests the empirical validity of a claim that has been playing a central role in debates on corporate governance – the claim that interventions by activist shareholders, and in particular activist hedge funds, have an adverse effect on the long-term interests of companies and their shareholders. While this “myopic activists” claim has been regularly invoked and has had considerable influence, its supporters have thus far failed to back it up with evidence. Our study presents a comprehensive emp  irical investigation of this claim. Our findings have important policy implications for ongoing policy debates on corporate governance and the rights and role of shareholders…

… Our study uses a dataset consisting of the full universe of approximately 2,000 interventions by activist hedge funds during the period 1994–2007. We identify for each activist effort the month (the intervention month) in which the activist initiative was first publicly disclosed (usually through the filing of a Schedule 13D). Using the data on operating performance and stock returns of public companies during the period 1991-2012, we track the operating performance and stock returns for companies during a long period – five years – following the intervention month. We also examine the three-year period that precedes activist interventions and that follows activists’ departure.

Hauser Hall
Hauser Hall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Starting with operating performance, we find that operating performance improves following activist interventions and there is no evidence that the improved performance comes at the expense of performance later on. During the third, fourth, and fifth year following the start of an activist intervention, operating performance tends to be better, not worse, than during the pre-intervention period. Thus, during the long, five-year time window that we examine, the declines in operating performance asserted by supporters of the myopic activism claim are not found in the data. We also find that activists tend to target companies that are underperforming relative to industry peers at the time of the intervention, not well-performing ones.

We then turn to stock returns following the initial stock price spike that is well-known to accompany activist interventions. We first find that, consistent with the results obtained with respect to pre-intervention operating performance, targets of activists have negative abnormal returns during the three years preceding the intervention. We then proceed to examine whether, as supporters of the myopic activism claim believe, the initial stock price reflects inefficient market pricing that fails to reflect the long-term costs of the activist intervention and is thus followed by stock return underperformance in the long term.

In investigating the presence of negative abnormal returns during this period, we employ three standard methods used by financial economists for detecting stock return underperformance. In particular, the study examines: first, whether the returns to targeted companies were systematically lower than what would be expected given standard asset pricing models; second, whether the returns to targeted companies were lower than those of “matched” firms that are similar in terms of size and book to market; and, third, whether a portfolio based on taking positions in activism targets and holding them for five years underperforms relative to its risk characteristics. Using each of these methods, we find no evidence of the asserted reversal of fortune during the five-year period following the intervention. The long-term underperformance asserted by supporters of the myopic activism claim, and the resulting losses to long-term shareholders resulting from activist interventions, are not found in the data.

We also analyze whether activists cash out their stakes before negative stock returns occur and impose losses on remaining long-term shareholders. Because activist hedge funds have been documented to deliver adequate returns to their own investors, such a pattern is a necessary condition for long-term shareholders being made worse off by activist interventions. We therefore examine whether targets of activist hedge funds experience negative abnormal returns in the three years after an activist discloses that its holdings fell below the 5% threshold that subjects investors to significant disclosure requirements. Again using the three standard methods for detecting the existence of abnormal stock returns, we find no evidence that long-term shareholders experience negative stock returns during the three years following the partial or full cashing out of an activist’s stake.

We next turn to examine the two subsets of activist interventions that are most resisted and criticized – first, interventions that lower or constrain long-term investments by enhancing leverage, beefing up shareholder payouts, or reducing investments and, second, adversarial interventions employing hostile tactics. In both cases, interventions are followed by improvements in operating performance during the five-year period following the intervention, and no evidence is found for the adverse long-term effects asserted by opponents.

Finally, we examine whether activist interventions render targeted companies more vulnerable to economic shocks. In particular, we examine whether companies targeted by activist interventions during the years preceding the financial crisis were hit more in the subsequent crisis. We find no evidence that pre-crisis interventions by activists were associated with greater declines in operating performance or higher incidence of financial distress during the crisis.

Our findings that the data does not support the claims and empirical predictions of those holding the myopic activism view have significant implications for ongoing policy debates. Going forward, policymakers and institutional investors should not accept the validity of assertions that interventions by hedge funds are followed by long-term adverse consequences for companies and their long-term shareholders. The use of such claims as a basis for limiting shareholder rights and involvement should be rejected.

Our study is available here.

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*Lucian Bebchuk is Professor of Law, Economics, and Finance at Harvard Law School. Alon Brav is Professor of Finance at Duke University. Wei Jiang, Professor of Finance at Columbia Business School. This post is based on their study, The Long-Term Effects of Hedge Fund Activism, available here. An op-ed about the article published in the Wall Street Journal summarizing the results of the study is available here.

Les facteurs-clés à prendre en considération par les administrateurs de sociétés en 2013


Voici un court article, publié dans Harvard law School Forum on Corporance Governance, qui présente les principaux thèmes d’intérêt en gouvernance à l’approche de l’année 2013. Ci-dessous un extrait des suggestions.Je vous encourage à lire l’article.

Key Issues for Directors in 2013

English: Risk management sub processes
English: Risk management sub processes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

« For a number of years, as the new year approaches, I have prepared for boards of directors a one-page list of the key issues that are newly emerging or will be especially important in the coming year. Each year, the legal rules and aspirational best practices for corporate governance, as well as the demands of activist shareholders seeking to influence boards of directors, have increased. So too have the demands of the public with respect to health, safety, environmental and other socio-political issues. In The Spotlight on Boards, I have published a list of the roles and responsibilities that boards today are expected to fulfill. Looking forward to 2013, it is clear that in addition to satisfying these expectations, the key issues that boards will need to address include:

1. Working with management to encourage entrepreneurship, appropriate risk taking, and investment to promote the long-term success of the company

2. Working with management and advisors to review the company’s business and strategy …

3. Resisting the escalating demands of corporate governance activists …

4. Organizing the business, and maintaining the collegiality, of the board and its committees

5. Developing an understanding of shareholder perspectives …

6. Developing an understanding of how the company and the board will function in the event of a crisis …

7. Retaining and recruiting directors who meet the requirements for experience, expertise, diversity, independence, leadership ability and character … 

8. Working with management to cope with the proliferation of new regulations …

9. Dealing with populist demands, such as criticism of executive compensation and risk management … » 

Discussion sur l’activisme des actionnaires !


Voici un article fascinant, publié par Richard Leblanc, sur son blogue Governance Gateway. Dans le billet, Richard Leblanc exprime son point de vue (1) sur les raisons qui incitent les actionnaires activistes à intervenir dans les activités des entreprises, et (2) sur le concept d’actionnariat au sens large. L’auteur tente de répondre à plusieurs questions fondamentales : Quelles sont les responsabilités des conseils d’administration dans les cas d’activisme des actionnaires et d’offres d’achat non-sollicitées ? Quel est le devoir du C.A. envers les actionnaires … et envers les parties prenantes ? Comment définir la « valeur » des actionnaires ? Quelle est la place des consultants dans ce processus ? Autant de questions auxquelles l’auteur tente d’apporter des réponses sensées. Ce sont des prises de positions qui peuvent avoir de grandes incidences sur le modèle de gouvernance existant ! À lire.

« There has been a critique lately by retained advisors to management and academics about activist investors and the focus on shareholder value. This is a counterpoint on why shareholder activism occurs, what “shareholder value” is and is not, and what “shareholder engagement” really means…. The overall commentary of shareholder value has as an undercurrent that shareholders have too much influence and power. In my view, the opposite is true. Shareholders do not have enough impact and influence and directors are not accountable to them. The deck is far more tilted towards incumbent management, directors beholden to them, retained advisors to management, and an overall lack of accountability to shareholders. The existing model of corporate governance should address this ».Voici les questions soulevées dans l’article de Richard Leblanc :

  1. « Why do activists emerge?
  2. What is the board’s responsibility when an activist emerges?
  3. Self interest by boards when an activist emerges?
  4. Does a board have a “duty” to stakeholders other than shareholders?
  5. Shareholder value defined
  6. Shareholder engagement and shareholder democracy defined
  7. What about advisors to boards? »

À quoi servent les actionnaires de nos jours ? (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

Les actionnaires disent de plus en plus NON aux rémunérations excessives ! (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

La gouvernance et le « Old Boys’ Network » (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

Values-based Governance Versus Rules-Based Governance (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

Should Proxy Advisory Firms Be Regulated ? Yes according to Richard Leblanc (jacquesgrisegouvernance.com)

Changing the Rules – Shareholder Value Exposed (jeremyarnone.com)