December 20, 2019
Weekly Activism Highlights: SEC Turns to ESG, Apple,
Business Roundtable
While inflows into ESG are surging, so is the scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal reports that the SEC is examining the criteria financial advisers use to assess ESG stocks and whether their focus on ESG clashes with the fiduciary rule. Short sellers are also taking note. Reuters reports that bears like Muddy Waters’ Carson Block, are betting against companies whose valuation may be buoyed by their strong ESG rating. Reuters’ research showed that companies with the best ESG scores have 50% higher short interest than those with the worst ESG scores.

Meanwhile, Apple is under fire for kowtowing to Beijing’s demands for taking down an app that showed locations of riot police during protests in Hong Kong. SumOfUs has asked Apple to explain about how it responds to government demands that limit freedom of expression. Shareholders will get the chance to press Apple on the human rights issue during its annual meeting next year, as the SEC denied the company’s request to block the resolution.

Finally, Financial Times columnist Michael Skapinker looked back on the year in company news, focusing on the U.S. Business Roundtable’s commitment to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Skapinker notes that this topic is far from new, as he first wrote about it in 1989. Alas, he writes, irresponsible behavior still abounds. That said, he holds out hope for the “E” in ESG, noting that climate issues are a lasting reality that the corporate world needs to confront.

And so ends our last newsletter of 2019. We’ll be taking a short break over the holidays, resuming coverage on January 10, 2020.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Best,
Gabriella and the GPP team 
Thematic Articles
The Wall Street Journal: ESG Funds Draw SEC Scrutiny

Wall Street's growing foray into impact investing has regulators questioning investors’ ESG criteria Read More
Financial Times - Opinion: Responsible business: is this time different?

Are the world’s companies really going to mend their ways? Read More
Reuters: U.S. SEC proposes allowing more investors access to private companies

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday proposed changes to its decades-old definition of a professional investor in order to allow more Americans to buy shares in private companies
Reuters: Villains or visionaries? Hedge funds short companies they say 'greenwash'

Short sellers spy an opportunity in the tens of trillions of global investment dollars are pouring into companies touting robust environmental, social and governance credentials Read More
Company- or Fund-specific Articles
The Wall Street Journal: Activist Urges Gaming and Leisure Properties to Seek Deal

Land & Buildings Investment Management wants it to explore deal with VICI Properties Read More
Financial Times: Apple faces shareholder vote on human rights policies

Company fails to block resolution as activists criticise response to Hong Kong protests Read More
Financial Times: Shell reveals it paid no UK corporate income tax in 2018

Oil group benefited from rebates on $731m profits thanks to North Sea decommissioning Read More
Financial Times: ValueAct extends information sharing deal with Citi 

Activist investor has no immediate plans to take board seat Read More
Bloomberg: SandRidge CEO Resigns as Icahn-Backed Board Eyes Spending Plan

Producer had been pressured by Carl Icahn to sell itself; drillers have been pummeled by volatile oil and gas prices Read More
Bloomberg: Why Activist Fund Voce Capital Is Pushing for Further Argo Board Changes (Video)

J. Daniel Plants, founder and chief investment officer of Voce Capital Management, discusses the board of director changes at Argo Group International Holdings Read More
Reuters: Exclusive: Hudson's Bay's take-private deal falls short – sources

Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay Co has fallen short of securing enough shareholder support for a C$1.9 billion($1.4 billion) deal to take the department store operator private Read More
Reuters – Breakingviews: Breakingviews - Unilever boss needs to channel his inner activist

Consumer giant Unilever is creaking. The $161 billion maker of Bovril meat paste warned revenue in 2019 will grow below its 3%-5% target Read More
CNBC: Analyst says FedEx plunge leaves bellwether vulnerable to the once unthinkable: an activist

Analyst Don Bilson says its fiscal second-quarter results were so bad that such criticism is justified and that an activist investor could be tempted to push for change Read More
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