Activist Directors: Determinants and Consequences
This paper examines the determinants and consequences of hedge fund activism with a focus on activist directors, i.e., those directors appointed in response to demands by activists. Using a sample of 1,969 activism events over the period 2004–2012, we identify 824 activist directors. We find that activists are more likely to gain board seats at smaller firms and those with weaker stock price performance. Activists remain as shareholders longer when they have board seats, with holding periods consistent with conventional notions of "long-term" institutional investors. As in prior research, we find positive announcement-period returns of around 4–5% when a firm is targeted by activists, and a 2% increase in return on assets over the subsequent one to five years. We find that activist directors are associated with significant strategic and operational actions by firms. We find evidence of increased divestiture, decreased acquisition activity, higher probability of being acquired, lower cash balances, higher payout, greater leverage, higher CEO turnover, lower CEO compensation, and reduced investment. With the exception of the probability of being acquired, these estimated effects are generally greater when activists obtain board representation, consistent with board representation being an important mechanism for bringing about the kinds of changes that activists often demand.
Keywords: Governing and Advisory Boards;
Consequences to Directors of Shareholder Activism
We examine how shareholder activist campaigns affect the careers of directors of the targeted firms. Using a comprehensive sample of shareholder activism between 2004 and 2011, we find that directors are almost twice as likely to leave over a two-year period if the firm is the subject of a shareholder activist campaign. While it has been argued that proxy contests are an ineffective mechanism for replacing directors, as they rarely succeed in getting a majority of shareholder support, our results suggest that director turnover takes place following shareholder activism even without shareholder activists engaging in, let alone winning, proxy contests. Performance-sensitivity of director turnover is also higher in the presence of shareholder activism. We also find that director election results matter for director retention: directors are more likely to leave in the year following activism when they receive lower shareholder support. Contrary to consequences on the targeted firm's board, we find no evidence that directors lose seats on other boards, a proxy for reputational consequences, as a result of shareholder activism.
Keywords: shareholder activism;