Last spring, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon faced a revolt from shareholders still seething over the bank’s multibillion-dollar trading losses suffered on his watch. Though Dimon ultimately retained his dual roles as chairman and CEO, the well-publicized push-back nonetheless could be a harbinger of activism by investors upset over issues related to corporate governance.
If so, such efforts would be consistent with Warren Buffett’s precept that shareholders should view themselves as owners of a business, rather than as detached and distant investors with no interest in — or say about — how that business is actually operated.
Getting an insulated management team to seriously consider the views of some 100-share owner from the hinterlands always has been a daunting task. But thanks to a new website, TheShareholderActivist.com, smaller shareholders now may find the process less intimidating. The site provides an array of tools that might cause some boards and CEOs to take notice.
“Education is a big part of our platform,” says Jonathan Bayer, president and co-founder of the site. “Knowledge is power. If you know what you can and cannot do, then it’s possible to take a step forward.”
Most of the site’s resources are free, and are clearly labeled as such. On the right side of the homepage, click on Access Activism Tools for a guide to the labyrinthine do’s and don’ts of petitioning company management. There’s also a link for creating a shareholder campaign, though that kind of activism usually requires spending a small amount of money for a domain. On the lower right side of the homepage, you’ll find links to more than a half-dozen additional shareholder-activist sites, such as CorpGov.net and the Harvard Law School Forum.
At the very least, enhancing the ability of shareholders to influence management could sensitize them to the issues that ultimately will affect their finances. It would make the real owners of a business feel more a part of how the company is run. I’m guessing Warren Buffett would vote yes on that proposal.