Here's a new survey from FTI Consulting and Activist Insight that polls activist investors on a variety of issues. You can read the whole survey below. One interesting insight is that 70% of shareholder activists think partnerships with big institutional investors will increase in the future.
Howard Marks is out with his latest memo and, as always, it's something for every investor to read. The theme of this memo revolves around what Marks calls "second level thinking," or going beyond what the crowd's thesis is and how hard that really is to do in practice. That's especially true these days with the flood of information available on the web as well as on business news networks, chat rooms and other locales. It's rare that someone finds and insight that the crowd doesn't already know about.
The full memo can also be accessed HERE as well as below.
We get requests for proposals, or RFPs, on a weekly basis these days and one thing I've noticed is that they all seem to ask the same questions. It's almost as if those looking for public relations advise are all playing from the same template. I saw two RFPs over the last two months from large asset management firms that had the exact same wording in the majority of their questions. I had to ask myself how much these firms actually knew about hiring a strategic communications consultant, or if they merely Googled around to find out what to ask. (Full disclosure: I've done the same thing when hiring a service provider.)
Having worked in the industry for almost five years now, I thought I'd put together a list of the tough questions that everyone should ask, especially when looking for a PR firm that is specializes in financial services. Unlike some other industries, financial services really requires a specialist firm who knows the message, understands the current landscape and has a solid understanding of all constituencies. You don't want a firm who needs a "refresher course" on what an exchange traded fund or managed futures strategy is - they should know.
Download the entire letter and past Chairman's letters from Oaktree's website.
Get your press policy in order
While the best activism campaigns might be those nobody hears about, you need a clear policy – agreed upon in advance – detailing how to handle press queries. As well as developing relationships with the press during good times, a company could prequalify PR firms it wants on its side, as mentioned above.
‘Being unresponsive to journalists is never a good thing, and you can bet the activists are conveying their message to reporters behind the scenes on a daily basis,’ says Zach Kouwe, vice president at Dukas Public Relations. It’s also wise not to ‘dig your heels in’, as this ‘not only looks unbecoming and defensive but also draws the media’s attention to the conflict aspect of the story rather than the validity of the actual ideas about long-term strategy.’
Know your activists – and listen
As well as explaining how their current strategy is creating value for shareholders, ‘companies should be open to dialogue with activists, which often have interesting ideas and can be a catalyst for value-added change,’ says Kouwe. ‘This is important even if only to know how best to counter an activist’s proposals.’
Action against Activism (Corporate Secretary - Feb. 13, 2015)
Download full article below:
Source for top 25 - Institutional Investor Magazine
If you want to see one of the best rollouts of a fairly complex business book, witness Michael Lewis’ extensive PR campaign for Flash Boys. He started with a “60 Minutes” exclusive where he said the “U.S. stock market is rigged”—not exactly earth shattering, but it got a debate going on Twitter among Wall St. columnists and other pundits. (Here’s a good one) The splashy “60 Minutes” debut then basically steamrolled into an all-day debate and coverage of high frequency trading on all of the business networks and the main networks (including CBS, of course).
The New York Times had no less than four pieces from the book including an excerpt in the New York Times Magazine, a DealBook column by Andrew Ross Sorkin, an official review of the bookand a piece about all the hoopla. The Wall Street Journal had its own review and so did other major outlets. A search in Factiva yielded 385 mentions for the book in the last 24 hours, and that doesn’t include blogs.
Then, a BNP Paribas executive wrote to all of his clients and told them Lewis was invested in IEX, the platform to combat high frequency traders that he wrote about. That prompted Lewis to issue a strong rebuttal on his Facebook page calling out the BNP executive by name. Twitter went nuts in the afternoon just as the whole Lewis frenzy was beginning to die down. BuzzFeed obtained a copy of the email (the post got 58,000 views in less than 24 hours), which fueled the fire even more.
To top it all off, in a highly unusual move, the FBI reached out to media outlets to let them know they had been running an investigation of high frequency trading for over a year.
AND THAT’S JUST THE FIRST DAY!
The book is of course No. 1 on the Amazon Best Sellers list right now.
By Zach Kouwe
Zach Kouwe is a Vice President at Dukas Public Relations.