Recent proxy data indicates that the influence activist investors have on the companies they target is on the rise. Of course proxy data doesn’t tell the whole story, however, but there are other signs that activists are asserting influence over their targets.
Managements winning more often over activists
Recently DuPont management won out over Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, which is just one recent victory over an activist. Data from FactSet shows that DuPont’s win is part of a broader trend which indicates that the win rate for company managements is up.
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As of June 5, the win rate for company managements in proxy battles over board seats that went to shareholder votes was about 62%. That’s a dramatic increase of 57% compared to last year’s 39% win rate.
Interestingly, FactSet reports that support for activist campaigns is declining, as activists received, on average, support from 33% of the outstanding votes. Last year, activists received an average of 42% of the outstanding votes, according to FactSet.
The data runs contrary to data from the Proxy Monitor, which suggested support for activist investors is actually on the rise.
Settlements with activists on the rise
FactSet also looked at settlements with activists, however, and learned that settlements between companies and activist investors are on the rise. In other words, activists are still asserting their influence over companies by getting them to settle without taking issues to a proxy contest.
The firm reports that there were 33 proxy battles that were formally settled or otherwise withdrawn after the target companies “made material concessions,” according to FactSet. That’s as of June 5, and the firm states that the numbers is the most as of this point in any year since it began following proxy fights in 2011.
Activists winning board seats in settlements
The firm also reports that companies are often choosing to give activist investors seats on their boards as part of their settlements with them before they will allow these battles to go to the proxy battle.
According to FactSet’s data, 46 activist campaigns which did not land on companies’ proxy ballots resulted in the activist getting a board seat. That’s as of June 1, and it marks the most in any “comparable period,” according to the firm. The data includes “all campaigns where activist investors attained board seats directly or had a material say in the appointment in new independent director(s).”
Last year there were 34 activist campaigns which resulted in board seats for activists, and the year before, where were only 11 in the same time frame.