Morning Brief: Ackman Loses Proxy Fight With ADP

November 08, 2017   Stephen Taub

ADP chief executive Carlos Rodriguez called the contest for board seats an “ass-whipping.”

Pershing Square Capital Management’s William Ackman lost his proxy battle with ADP in what the payroll processing company’s chief executive called an "ass-whipping," according to Reuters. The activist hedge fund firm received fewer than 25 percent of the votes for its slate of three directors, according to the report. The loss is the latest setback for Ackman as well as activists in general. Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill, another current Ackman activist target, are well down from the stock’s 2015 high, and Ackman is also losing money on his negative bet on Herbalife. Meanwhile, ADP, which has a $50 billion market capitalization, is the latest among a string of very large companies to fend off activist attacks this year. Procter and Gamble recently claimed victory over Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, while earlier this year David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital failed to convince General Motors shareholders to create two separate stocks.


In the latest explosive story about sexual harassment, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bridgewater Associates paid a settlement of more than $1 million to a woman who claimed she was pushed out of the firm after engaging in a consensual relationship with then co-chief executive officer Greg Jensen. The world’s largest hedge fund firm had also received a complaint from another female employee who claimed Jensen groped her, according to the report, which cited people familiar with the matter. The incidents took place about three years ago. Dalio, who was personally involved in mediating these situations, approved the settlement. In a statement to the Journal, Jensen said: "The Wall Street Journal ’s accusations of my behavior are inaccurate and salacious. They are hurtful to my family and my reputation with those who don’t know me, so I am deeply disappointed with their sense of responsibility." 

After the article ran on the paper’s website, Dalio said in a statement to the Journal that he judged Jensen to "be a man of high character," adding that he "would not have tolerated the pattern of behavior inaccurately described by the Wall Street Journal." A Bridgewater spokesman said in a statement that the report was "an uninformed misrepresentation of what actually occurred. While we are prohibited from speaking to this case, our track record speaks for itself. Because of the people, procedures, and culture we have in place, Bridgewater, over the course of its 43-year history, has had very few incidents of any type, handled them thoughtfully, comprehensively and fairly, and has had no material adverse judgments."


Eminence Capital reported that it owns a little more than 2 million shares of Ellie Mae, or 6 percent of the cloud-based mortgage processing software company.


Lone Pine Capital disclosed that as of October 27 it owned about 5.5 million shares of Grupo Televisa’s Series "L" Global Depositary Shares, or 6.4 percent of the Hispanic media giant.


Davidson Kempner Partners said that as of October 25, it owned 2 million shares of Haymaker Acquisition Corp., the equivalent of 6.67 percent of the blank-check company. Haymaker said in a press release that it plans to acquire one or more businesses to build a company in the consumer or consumer-related products and services industries. Davidson Kempner is an active investor in blank-check companies.


Shares of the Priceline Group plunged 13.5 percent to close at $1645.72 after Credit Suisse trimmed its price target on the stock from $2070 to $2000. The investment bank retained its Outperform rating. In a note to clients, Credit Suisse said the online travel agency’s third quarter results were "OK," but asserted that a change in the company’s marketing strategy was creating some uncertainty. At the end of the second quarter, at least 84 hedge funds held a position in the stock, including 17 that included it among their top-10 holdings, according to Goldman Sachs Group.

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