CII conference speakers expect more activist investing, collaborative governance

More activist investing and collaboration among large institutional shareholders on corporate governance issues are likely, said speakers at the Council of Institutional Investors spring conference Thursday and Friday in Washington.

“The current environment is one of the most favorable for activist investing in recent memory,” Edward Garden, chief investment officer and founding partner of Trian Fund Management, told CII attendees. Mr. Garden promoted the concept of “respectful confrontation” and encouraged more collaboration between activist investors and large institutional shareholders.

“I think we are in for an unprecedented wave of activism, and probably an unprecedented level of backlash as well,” said Patrick McGurn, executive director and special counsel at Institutional Shareholder Services.

For companies on the receiving end of the activism, “the best defense is to engage your long-term shareholders,” including union and public pension funds, said Michael Garland, assistant New York City comptroller for environmental, social and governance.

Separately, during the conference, CII named Jay Chaudhuri, general counsel and senior adviser to North Carolina state Treasurer Janet Cowell, as chairman of the board. New board members are Trevor Gunderson, vice president and deputy general counsel at General Mills; Jennifer O’Dell, assistant director, Laborers’ International Union of North America Staff and Affiliates Pension Fund, Washington; and Gregory Smith, executive director of the $45 billion Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association, Denver.