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,