Shareholder Activism (Corporate)

Shareholder Activism

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. A transition period, during which EU laws continue to apply in the UK, is due to end on 31 December 2020. The UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement sets out transitional arrangements and negotiations for the future UK/EU relationship are ongoing.

Once frowned upon as a breach of ‘shareholder etiquette’, activism is today seen as a legitimate form of self-regulation. If regulators, corporate governance codes and non-executive directors are unable to cure poor performance and curb corporate excesses, what forbids shareholders from intervening?

Activists range from pension funds demanding reform of executive pay schemes, to ethical investors calling for more attentive management, to hedge funds seeking to turn around under-performing companies.

The advent of social media has given activists a tool with which to frame debate and discussion and to find their voice and stand up to management. Activists are aware that an individual or a company’s reputation can be destroyed by just one tweet. Their campaigns are increasingly as much about publicity as about corporate law.

Working with our colleagues in Reputation Protection, we advise shareholder activists on exactly what they can and cannot say and on what they would like to achieve, while at the same time advising on the impact of Company Law, Insider Trading and Market Abuse Legislation and the Takeover Code. Our highly skilled and tenacious team of lawyers combines corporate, reputation management and litigation expertise.

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