Last month, we described the increased threat of activists and acquirors seeking to capitalize on the COVID-19 sell-off to build positions in high-value companies at depressed prices.  Even before the current crisis emerged, we recommended that all U.S. public companies regularly review their defense profile and have a shareholder rights plans “on the shelf.” For companies uniquely impacted by the crisis—especially those whose market capitalization has fallen below $1 billion—we suggested they re-assess their vulnerabilities in this new environment and consider whether now was the right time to adopt a rights plan to ward off potential opportunistic behavior. Some companies have done just that—since March 1, 2020, 24 U.S. public companies have adopted a defensive shareholder rights plan (6 other U.S. public companies have adopted NOL rights plans).
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On April 2, 2020, Glass Lewis announced the global expansion of its Report Feedback Statement (“RFS”) service.[1] This service operates separately from the process for companies reporting factual errors or omissions in a research report and instead focuses on differences of opinion, allowing companies and shareholder proposal proponents to respond directly to Glass Lewis’s research and recommendations.[2]
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On March 30, 2019, Paul Shim and Jim Langston joined Patrick Ramsey, Global Head of M&A at BofA Securities, and Amy Lissauer, Global Head of Activism and Raid Defense at BofA Securities, on a conference call panel titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Shareholder Activism and Hostile M&A.”

The panelists shared their views on the state of activism and hostile attacks in the current environment, how the activism playbook may evolve, when and how the next wave of activism and hostile attacks is likely to emerge, and what companies can do today to prepare for the storm.

Dial-in Details are as follows:
U.S. toll-free: 888 203 1112
International: +1 719 457 0820
Passcode: 1219818

The replay will be available from Monday, March 30, 2020, at 4:00 p.m. through Wednesday, April 29, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

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Amidst a market-wide sell-off of public equities in the face of coronavirus uncertainty, companies across nearly every industry have witnessed significant declines in stock prices. As the market turbulence shows no signs of abating in the near term, public companies should consider turning to shareholder rights plans (or “poison pills”) to protect against hostile attacks.

The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2020”.

Shareholder engagement continues to be an important consideration for companies in communicating their long-term strategy and deepening relationships with their investors, and boards are becoming ever more involved in the process.

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The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2020”.

The era of stakeholder governance and corporations with a purpose beyond profits is taking hold, with corporate directors expected to answer to more constituencies and shoulder a greater burden than ever before.

Recent changes in political climates, legal reforms and social norms have had varying (and sometimes conflicting) impacts on how companies are run; however, they have all contributed to a growing demand that companies expand their focus beyond shareholder value creation.

Environmental, social and governance concerns dominate shareholder proposals and engagement efforts, and discussions of corporate

The CEOs of 150 major US public companies recently pledged to act for all of their “stakeholders” – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and yes, even stockholders.[1] Much commentary ensued. But before we get too excited about whether these CEOs are grasping the mantle of government to act on behalf of the citizenry and other people who aren’t paying them, there is the prior question of whether, as a matter of Delaware law, they can.
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Institutional investors are howling for US public companies to focus more on the long-term.[1]  This is unsurprising. Long-term focused companies produce significantly better results over time, reporting far greater revenue growth with less volatility, far higher levels of economic profit, and greater total return to shareholders.[2] So if you are holding stock for a long time, a long-term focus for your portfolio companies is critical.
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The modus operandi of shareholder activism is to agitate for change, often involving campaigns to convince other shareholders to support proposals to change the composition of the board and the company’s strategy.

Under UK law a shareholder activist, in its capacity as shareholder, can attack the board and its strategy in the press and in