Ahead of this week’s Tulane Corporate Law Institute conference, the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) and Gladstone Place Partners conducted a survey of investor relations officers (IROs) to gather their outlook for the year on topics such as shareholder activism, M&A, ESG, DE&I and more. Of the ESG components most important to companies this year, social topped the list at 33% compared to 9% the previous year. IROs were split on whether the Biden administration would be tougher on antitrust enforcement, with 51 percent expecting a more aggressive approach.
In other news, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it will not enforce the previous administration’s rule that made it harder for 401(k) plans to invest in ESG funds. The move comes as ESG inflows continue to skyrocket, receiving a record $51.1 billion of new money in 2020. While seen as a win for Wall Street, some asset managers vowed to continue lobbying to enforce the rule.
The activist group that has been pushing for change at Kohl’s announced this week that it is now seeking five seats rather than the nine previously sought. Macellum Advisors GP, Ancora Holdings Inc. and Legion Partners Asset Management cited its goal to “construct the strongest possible board with directors who possess relevant retail, capital allocation, strategy and corporate governance expertise” as the reason behind its decision to dial back. The adjusted slate technique has increasingly been employed by activists, who initially push for board control to maximize pressure but then reduce it down once investor input is weighed against proxy advisors’ tougher rules for majority slates.
Have a great weekend,