No Election Deniers, BlackRock Says It’s Okay for Retail Shareholders to Vote 

The latest letter from BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink is making waves after announcing plans to expand its Voting Choice program to allow more investors, including retail shareholders, to engage more directly in proxy voting. Now, peers of BlackRock are also signaling they may follow suit and give retail investors the power to vote.


The potential ramifications are broad and a likely result is the need to develop a more coordinated strategy around retail voting in contested elections and shareholder proposals. With tens of millions of individual investors being asked to make voting decisions, there will be a major push to get out the retail vote if BlackRock and Vanguard’s trillions in assets are to be voted separately. Matt Levine doesn’t see this development as a “revolution in shareholder democracy” and argues BlackRock’s power to sway companies will become more limited.


As a result, the role of proactive communications and investor relations campaigns will be even more important. The continued push towards leveraging digital and social channels to engage with shareholders will play a major role in proxy campaigns following BlackRock’s decision – something Gladstone has covered in the past.


Meanwhile, it’s only been a week since the Twitter deal closed and a lot has happened. Emptywheel and the Viewsroom podcast detail everything you might have missed with the daily developments, but there have been notable antitrust and governance updates. Questions have surfaced around considerations for CFIUS to investigate Chinese and Saudi ties to the deal and more specifically, “the role of foreign investors in the company and order changes in their involvement,” per the Washington Post. A question Musk will have to answer on his own after “temporarily” firing Twitter’s Board.


Turning the page to antitrust news: a judge closed the book on Penguin Random House’s proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster, siding with the DOJ that the deal would negatively impact competition. Hoping to build on the momentum, we learned that the DOJ is investigating Adobe’s pending $20 billion acquisition of Figma. Antitrust regulators have been waiting for a win, as losses this year have piled up and upcoming elections might result in further scrutiny of the agencies. The Deal’s David Hatch outlines the “seismic shift” that could occur, especially at the FTC, if new lawmakers deem it necessary to consolidate the antitrust agencies. 

Have a great weekend,

GPP Team


DealBook: BlackRock Sees a ‘Revolution’ Coming in Corporate Governance

Larry Fink, CEO of asset manager BlackRock, wrote a letter to clients and CEOs advocating for expanding retail shareholder voting rights in proxy battles via the company’s Voting Choice initiative, pointing to a “revolution in shareholder democracy." Read More 

Money Stuff: BlackRock Lets Its Clients Vote

Matt Levine outlines BlackRock’s decision to allow retail shareholders to vote their shares directly. While the move attempts to increase shareholders’ direct influence, concerns remain that the new policy will ultimately weaken their collective bargaining power. Read More

Washington Post: U.S. Exploring Whether It Has Authority to Review Musk’s Twitter Deal

Faiz Siddiqui, Jeff Stein and Joseph Menn report that Treasury Department officials have begun reviewing whether they have the legal authority to investigate Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition given Musk’s ties to foreign investors from China, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Read More

New York Times: Judge Blocks a Merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster

A merger between two of the largest US-based publishing agencies was denied in federal court, one example in a slate of decisions which show the increased strictness around anti-trust enforcement. Read More 

The Deal: FTC Foes Dream of Antitrust Divestiture

Scratch it all together? David Hatch reports that some critics of the FTC claim the government arm has become bloated, ineffectual and partisan, and back the Reagan-era proposition of abolishing the subsidiary of the DOJ altogether. Read More


Semafor: A Fight for the Boardroom of America

At the center of this fight is whether or not activist investors should have to reveal its financial backers. Politan Capital, a hedge fund seeking board seats at Masimo, says the bylaw is overly onerous and makes campaigns significantly more difficult. Read More

New York Times: Attorneys General Sue to Stop Dividend Tied to Kroger-Albertsons Deal

Lauren Hirsch writes that following news of its proposed acquisition by Kroger, Albertsons is being sued by state attorneys general in Washington, California, Illinois and D.C. in efforts to block a special dividend that would pay billions to private equity investors even if the merger fails to receive regulatory approval. Read More

Wall Street Journal: Carl Icahn Has More Than 8% Stake in Beverage-Can Maker Crown Holdings

Cara Lombardo and Lauren Thomas report that Carl Icahn has taken a large stake in Crown Holdings, calling for the company to undertake a number of strategic moves, namely spinning off underperforming assets. Read More

The New Yorker: Was Jack Welch the Greatest C.E.O. of His Day—or the Worst?

Malcolm Gladwell chronicles the life and complicated legacy of former GE CEO Jack Welch, whose controversial, but still influential, tactics led to GE’s meteoric rise and eventual downfall. Read More

CLS Blue Sky Blog: How Does Board-Shareholder Engagement Really Work?

This article by Rutgers and Bocconi University Law School professors Matteo Gatti, Giovanni Strampelli and Matteo Tonello outlines the results of their recent study revealing a direct correlation between proxy voting success and board engagement with relevant shareholders. Read More


Bloomberg: Women Lost Ground on S&P 500 Bank Boards as Men Gain Seats 

Jeff Green reports that female representation on boards of the world’s biggest banks has begun to lag behind their male counterparts in recent months as prominent firms have added a slate of male directors. Read More

Fortune: Executive Compensation at 73% of S&P 500 Companies is Now Tied to ESG Performance, Survey Finds

A significant majority of the world’s most prominent companies have begun to link executive compensation with ESG-focused initiatives and performance, says Fortune CEO Alan Murray. Read More

Wall Street Journal: How Investors Feel About ESG Initiatives 

As more institutional investors exert their influence in favor of ESG policies, investors’ support for the practice in general remains divided depending on factors like age and wealth, a Stanford study shows. Read More


Now that Halloween has passed us by, NYC seems to have skipped right over Thanksgiving and gone straight for the Winter holidays. The holidays in the city are a magical time, earmarked by ice skating rinks—open now in Central Park and tomorrow at Rockefeller Center. Just outside 30 Rock Plaza, this year’s Christmas tree will stand over 80 feet tall and hails from Queensbury, NY.


Speaking of passing by, the New York City Marathon returns to full capacity this Sunday, where an impenetrable throng of 50,000 marathoners will make their way down 5th Avenue. If you’re in the mood to experience second-hand exhaustion grab a lawn chair and go cheer for the runners!


In another quintessentially fall activity, a number of the GPP team are headed out to the meadowlands this weekend to watch the (Second in the AFC East!) Jets take on the Buffalo Bills. We won’t mention Vegas’ projections.


Finally, a new biography of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was published earlier this week, written by Jon Hilsenrath, the book delves into Yellen’s life and legacy, her relationship with Nobel Laureate George Akerlof and her ultimate status as one of the most influential people in contemporary American economics.


  • Jonathan Weil is set to return to the Wall Street Journal, this time joining the finance desk. Read More

  • Allison Prang announced her new position as a sustainability reporter at Politico. Read More 

  • Semafor reports CNBC is cancelling News with Shephard Smith, as the network looks to refocus the evening timeslot on business news. Read More


November 8-9, 2022: Berkeley Forum on Corporate Governance 

November 8-9, 2022: Harvard Corporate Governance Roundtable 

November 30, 2022: DealBook Summit  

December 7, 2022: Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit 

December 13-14, 2022: Yale CEO Summit 

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