More evidence of the tech sector taking antitrust law seriously. Amazon is trying to shackle a newly-appointed member of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) arguing she is biased against the company and will never give it a fair hearing. The online retailer says Lina Kahn, who was appointed chair by US President Joe Biden just last month, is prejudiced against them and has forged her career ‘in large measure by pronouncing Amazon liable for violating the antitrust laws’. The ecommerce giant wants Ms Kahn to step aside from any investigations in which it is involved. Given the possibility of a future examination of Amazon’s multi-billion-dollarRead More →

The barbarians are back at the gates, and it looks like the retail sector is a target for change. As many have been predicting since the Covid-19 pandemic first struck, a combination of depressed share prices and piles of dry powder make a wave of private equity activity likely. In the crosshairs currently is WM Morrison, which has reported interest from private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. If a deal went ahead it would represent one of Britain’s biggest leveraged buyouts since the 2008 crisis. The private equity firm put in an initial highly conditional offer of 230p per share for the supermarket, whichRead More →

At the start of the month Tim Martin’s reported appeal for a ‘more liberal immigration system’ to fill staff shortages as Weatherspoon’s bars reopened was covered widely by journalists keen to mock the notorious Brexiteer. Martin has since denied that the chain is struggling to fill vacancies beyond their usual seasonal strains. There have however been a slew of other sectors announcing labour shortages in addition to hospitality, including in care, construction and food processing. A common thread: these sectors are fuelled by minimum wage jobs, or close to, and involve work that posed a particularly high risk to workforces during the pandemic. Care, constructionRead More →

You might have thought that all the rhetoric about ‘stakeholder capitalism’ from the investment industry would mean investors would embrace having more, well, stakeholders involved in corporate governance. The reality is rather different. Analysis we’ve undertaken shows that the bulk of the asset management industry is opposing giving employees a voice at board level. We looked at votes cast by 25 asset managers on 16 shareholder resolutions filed at US companies in 2019 and 2020 asking them to consider employee representation at board level. Overall 84% of asset manager votes were against. But more troubling was that 16 of the 25 opposed every single resolutionRead More →

Another company facing a contested AGM last week was Amazon. One of the resolutions on the AGM agenda called on the company to produce a report on competition strategy and risk. Which was timely, because the day before the AGM the DC Attorney General announced its intention to sue the world’s biggest online retailer for practices that allegedly artificially inflate prices for consumers and dictate how businesses can distribute their goods. According to a lawsuit filed by Karl Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Amazon charges third-party sellers on its site fees of up to 40% of a product’s price and prevents themRead More →

Private equity companies and care homes seem curious bedfellows; one is focused on relatively short-term returns the other long-term care. Yet that has not stopped millions of dollars in private investment being pumped into the sector. But does that result in better levels of care for the elderly? Apparently not. A white paper from the Roosevelt Institute in the US covering private equity ownership of care homes in the US, revealed a shocking disparity between those institutions run by the public sector compared to those in the private. The paper cites evidence from the National Bureau of Economic Research which uncovered that private equity–owned nursingRead More →

It is somewhat dispiriting that company directors should be motivated by money to keep their workforces alive, but apparently they do. However, CEOs need not worry too much if workplace failures leads to loss of life, since it is unlikely to make much of a dent in their take home pay. Research from PIRC reveals that the average loss of earnings suffered for FTSE350 highest paid directors because of an employee fatality during the 2019/20 reporting year was just £33,628. The average total income of the highest paid directors at companies where pay was reduced following an occupational fatality was £3,942,236, so this equates toRead More →

Anyone labouring under the misconception that defined contribution pensions will serve the UK’s savers well in retirement, would do well to heed the warnings given in pension consultant LCP’s latest research. In a paper entitled ‘The ski slope of doom’, LCP warns that ‘current plans to replace disappearing defined benefit (DB) pensions by new DC savings are wholly inadequate. Without a greater sense of urgency, a whole generation of people will experience a worsening retirement outlook’. The consultant has analysed the likely pension entitlements of those in the private sector – having stripped out the expected returns enjoyed by final salary members in the publicRead More →

Whilst most investor activism these days seems to focus on ESG issues, recent developments remind us that until fairly recently ‘shareholder activism’ was a largely financially motivated activity. Paul Singer, CEO of hedge fund Elliott Management, is known as the ‘the world’s most feared investor’ and judging by his latest investment it seems he is in no rush to lose this reputation. This ‘activist’ investor has reportedly accumulated a multi-million-pound position in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and plans to use its influence to shape the pharmaceutical company’s planned restructure. Under the watch of CEO Dame Emma Walmsley, GSK is expected to split its consumer arm – whichRead More →