Responding to Shareholder Activism – Is More Shareholder Engagement the Answer? (ON-DEMAND RECORDING)



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About Our Discussion

In years gone by, companies followed a standard playbook for shareholder engagement that included investor meetings, quarterly conference calls, and annual investor days. While the SEC’s adoption of Regulation FD, more than a decade ago, required companies to adjust their playbooks to ensure compliance, the shareholder engagement playbook has stayed mostly the same. As public company boards of directors continue to grapple with the surge in shareholder activism, companies are being pressed to revise their approach to shareholder engagement. Not only are activist investors seeking increasing levels of interaction with corporate officers and directors but so are institutional investors who have become increasingly vocal and assertive as well as increasingly more receptive to engaging with activists. As such, many are now calling for the shareholder engagement playbook to be rewritten. In recent months, numerous thought leaders and governance groups have taken to proposing new models of shareholder engagement, some suggesting that adopting new approaches to shareholder engagement would lessen the current high tide in shareholder activism and result in less proxy battles and other contested solicitations or would lead to quicker settlements. As the media continues its fascination with covering shareholder activism, the media has also taken to expansively covering shareholder engagement and the topics are becoming increasingly juxtaposed.

In previous webinars, we have explored shareholder activism’s seemingly ever-increasing momentum, the attributes that make companies a target and make them vulnerable, steps that companies can take to make them less vulnerable and how companies should respond once they become aware that they have been targeted.  In this webinar, we will provide insights into various strategies and best practices for shareholder engagement in the context of where a company is a likely potential activist target or has already been targeted by an activist shareholder and how a company’s approach to shareholder engagement can have an outcome determinative effect in a proxy contest or other contested solicitation.

For this webinar, hosted by Contributing Editor Gene Marbach, we have assembled a panel of experts, all of whom bring to the discussion extensive experience in advising companies on how to engage with shareholders, including the activist, in the context defending against a threatened or initiated activist campaign.





Gene-Marbach-HeadshotGene Marbach Contributing Editor

Gene focuses on communications and business-related topics with insights informed by his more than 30 years of experience in investor relations and corporate communications, most recently as group vice president at Makovsky + Company, an investor relations and public relations firm. Gene is a prolific commentator on issues relating to investor relations and corporate communications and a frequent speaker and moderator at webinars and seminars focused on best practices in investor relations and corporate communications as well as evolving practices such as the use of social media to communicate with investors, whether in the context of a company’s routine quarterly earnings announcements or less routine events such as planning for an IPO, responding to an activist shareholder, executing an M&A strategy or responding to a crisis.




Steven-Balet-headshot2Steven Balet

Managing Director, FTI Consulting

Steven Balet, a Managing Director at FTI Consulting’s Strategic Communications practice. Over the past 20 years, Steven has developed extensive experience advising public companies and hedge funds of all sizes on contested proxy campaigns; corporate-governance issues; and mergers and acquisitions (M&As). He also has extensive experience working with issuers to develop the most effective messaging for delivering the vote; and routinely counsels clients on how to engage third-party advisory groups, such as Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS).  Leveraging best-in-class analysis that he has accumulated on various activist stockholders and their techniques, Steven drives messaging, strategic planning and influencer engagement to insulate his clients from proxy threats in and outside of proxy season.


Francis-Byrd-CORRECT-headshotFrancis Byrd

Director of Corporate Governance, TIAA-CREF

Francis Byrd, the Director of Corporate Governance at TIAA-CREF, a large institutional investment firm. With more than 20 years of experience in the corporate governance field and a thorough understanding of governance from the shareholders and bondholders/creditors perspectives, Francis plays a significant role in the development, management and execution of environmental, social and governance policies related to TIAA-CREF’s global active ownership activities; including supervising and executing domestic and international proxy votes consistent with TIAA-CREF’s established policies. He also advises TIAA-CREF’s executive management and trustees in the development and implementation of proxy voting policies relating to corporate governance and corporate social responsibility issues.


William-Fiske-headshotWilliam Fiske

Senior Managing Director, Georgeson, Inc.

William (Bill) Fiske, a Senior Managing Director with the proxy solicitation firm of Georgeson Inc. Bill develops and implements targeted investor communication strategies for publicly- traded companies involved in shareholder meetings and corporate actions, including negotiated mergers and acquisitions, unsolicited takeovers, shareholder activism and proxy contests.  With more than 20 years of experience providing companies with strategic proxy solicitation and corporate governance counsel, Bill’s expertise spans across a variety of governance topics, most notably his understanding of institutional investor voting policies. He is also actively engaged with clients on executive compensation and strategic corporate governance consulting.


Keith-Gottfried-150x150Keith Gottfried

Partner, Alston & Bird, LLP

Keith Gottfried, a Partner with the law firm of Alston & Bird LLP and the leader of its shareholder activism defense practice. Keith concentrates his practice advising public companies and their boards of directors and special committees on such matters as proxy contests, activist shareholder campaigns, unsolicited offers and other contested control situations.  Over the course a legal career that spans more than 20 years, he has been involved in defending numerous public companies against proxy contests, consent solicitations and unsolicited acquisition proposals. In addition to defending companies against activist campaigns, Keith also actively advises public companies on the adoption and implementation of best practices in corporate governance and strategies for engaging with third-party advisory groups such as Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS).

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