Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: The Effects of Passive Investors on Activism
We analyze whether the growing importance of passive investors has influenced the campaigns, tactics, and successes of activists. We find activists are more likely to pursue changes to corporate control or influence when a larger share of the target company’s stock is held by passively managed mutual funds. Furthermore, higher passive ownership is associated with increased use of proxy fights and a higher likelihood the activist obtains board representation or the sale of the targeted company. Our findings suggest that the large ownership stakes of passive institutional investors mitigate free-rider problems and ultimately increase the likelihood of success by activists.