Advertisement
Australia markets close in 5 hours 14 minutes
  • ALL ORDS

    7,976.50
    +38.60 (+0.49%)
     
  • ASX 200

    7,722.00
    +38.50 (+0.50%)
     
  • AUD/USD

    0.6495
    +0.0006 (+0.10%)
     
  • OIL

    83.46
    +0.10 (+0.12%)
     
  • GOLD

    2,335.50
    -6.60 (-0.28%)
     
  • Bitcoin AUD

    102,724.54
    -467.79 (-0.45%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,433.56
    +18.80 (+1.33%)
     
  • AUD/EUR

    0.6061
    +0.0005 (+0.08%)
     
  • AUD/NZD

    1.0929
    -0.0001 (-0.01%)
     
  • NZX 50

    11,849.63
    +46.35 (+0.39%)
     
  • NASDAQ

    17,471.47
    +260.59 (+1.51%)
     
  • FTSE

    8,044.81
    +20.94 (+0.26%)
     
  • Dow Jones

    38,503.69
    +263.71 (+0.69%)
     
  • DAX

    18,137.65
    +276.85 (+1.55%)
     
  • Hang Seng

    16,828.93
    +317.24 (+1.92%)
     
  • NIKKEI 225

    38,234.45
    +682.29 (+1.82%)
     

15 Best Shareholder Activism Law Firms

In this article, we discuss the 15 Best Shareholder Activism Law Firms. If you would like to discuss our detailed discussion and analysis of the shareholder activism space as of 2024, you can skip it and go directly to 5 Best Shareholder Activism Law Firms

A shareholder activist is someone who brings about changes within a publicly traded company or for a PLC by practicing their rights as a shareholder. They typically buy up a stake of voting shares, a minimum of 5%, in a company and employ various tactics to force a change in the company. 

A shareholder can have various motives to turn to activism, like wanting to increase the value of the company stocks they own or even to address a governing issue that they might feel is hurting the long-term value. Moreover, shareholders turn to activism when they find issues with the company’s products or business practices. 

To bring the desired change, shareholder activists use different tactics like negotiating with management or passing a shareholder resolution, where a proposal is submitted by shareholders at the annual meeting to call for or request a specified action by the corporate board. A shareholder activist may also use media pressure to draw the public's attention to an ongoing issue or a problem with management. Furthermore, if a group of shareholders are not satisfied with the corporation's management, they may team up to win a corporate vote against the management and bring the desired changes. 

ADVERTISEMENT

When nothing works, shareholders may also initiate legal action against the company’s management to achieve their desired goal. Although the litigation route is open for both parties, it is mostly avoided as the legal processes can be extremely costly and even damage the goodwill of the company. 

According to Lazard’s Shareholder Activism Report, 2023 was an exciting year for shareholder activist campaigners, with 252 new campaigns worldwide, representing a 7% year-on-year increase. It was also the year with a record number of shareholder activists (183) — a 21% year-on-year increase from 2022. While both Europe and Asia-Pacific (APAC) companies had record-high campaigns, 69 and 44, North America pulled back slightly with 133 activist campaigns, compared to the previous post-COVID year, 2022.  

In January 2024, Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM), an American multinational oil and gas company, saw two activist investor groups file a proposal to cut down its Scope 3, or end-use, carbon dioxide emissions. In return, Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. and Dutch activist shareholder groups for putting a climate resolution that goes against the corporation’s interest. While the activist shareholders have withdrawn the proposal, Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM) is steadfast in going on with the lawsuit.

While Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) was able to tackle investor activism, many companies that are not prepared for activists find themselves under great pressure and challenges. 

One example is of Crown Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CCK), which makes and sells packages for consumer goods, with most sales coming from beverage cans. Carl Icahn, a billionaire, activist investor, and one of WallStreets’ most successful figures, owned 8.5% of the stake in Crown Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CCK) in 2022. He wanted the company to sell its non-core businesses, invest back in shares, and mainly focus on growing its beverage can segment. Since he was the second-largest shareholder with about $700 million worth of shares, Crown Holdings (NYSE: CCK) appointed two independent directors, Andrew Teno and Jesse Lynn, to win the voting.

Another activism campaign of Carl Icahn against Illumina Inc (NASDAQ: ILMN), the sequencing and diagnostics giant, made headlines in October 2023 when he sued the company board for violating fiduciary duties. Earlier in 2022, the EU commission prohibited Illumina Inc (NASDAQ: ILMN), under the EU Merger Regulation, from acquiring an American biotechnology company, Grail, as it would "reduce competition and choices in the market." However, Illumina Inc (NASDAQ: ILMN) went ahead with the acquisition in 2023. Carl Icahn, being the biggest opposer of this deal, sued the board of directors for this decision.

Shareholder Activism Trends 2023

In 2023, several companies experienced backlash on various issues ranging from abortion rights to climate change, soaring the number of shareholder activist campaigns to a record high. According to the data from Barclays, in the first half of 2023, 59% of all shareholder activists targeted three main sectors — Technology (25%), Industrials (21%), and Healthcare (13%). Meanwhile, 24% of activist campaigns targeted companies with market capitalizations above $10 billion. Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG), Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS), HSBC (LON: HSBA), and Unilever (LON: ULVR) were among the top companies targeted by activist shareholder campaigns in 2023.

Moreover, in 2023, 46% of all activist shareholder campaigns forced some sort of merger and acquisition (M&A) deal, and some even asked for a sale or a company division. Some investment and asset manager companies like Elliott Investment Management, ValueAct Capital, and Jana Partners urged their target companies to merge, split, or sell themselves. These demands made up 49% of all activist campaigns last year.

Despite all the macroeconomic challenges, shareholder activism surged in 2023 and will continue to do so in the future as it is becoming a global trend. According to J.P. Morgan analysis, shareholder activists in the US are focusing their efforts on companies with greater market capitalization. Therefore, companies will have to increase their guard, work on defense strategies, and have a legal team ready for action. 

Below, we will discuss the 15 best shareholder activism law firms in 2024.

15 Best shareholder activism law firms
15 Best shareholder activism law firms

15 Best Shareholder Activism Law Firms

Our Methodology

For our list of the best shareholder activism law firms, we’ve adopted a consensus-based methodology. We compiled a list of the most prominent law firms across each continent across the world. Then, to shortlist the best firms, we sourced our data from Legal500, Chambers, and Bloomberg Law. We also considered other sources like Business Insider. Based on the amount of times a firm appeared on our sources, we gave the firm a point. We then awarded points based on industry reputation, and how many times the firm has been ranked and praised for shareholder activism by sources like The American Lawyer and the National Law Journal. Lastly, we averaged these points and awarded scores from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) to rank the best firms based on general consensus. The list is in ascending order, going from the lowest score to the highest. 

By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that uses a consensus approach to identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The website tracks the movement of corporate insiders and hedge funds. Our top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 stock index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). So, if you are looking for the best stock picks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders.

15 Best Shareholder Activism Law Firms

15. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 1

Founded in 1965, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz LLP is a renowned American law firm, based in New York City and is considered to be one of the best firms in the US for mergers and acquisitions. Their legal team consists of 278 attorneys with deep industry knowledge and a proactive approach. In 2022, according to The American Lawyer, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz LLP also had the second-highest profits per equity partner, averaging about $7.29 million.  

The law firm is known for its “poison pill” technique, a defensive strategy that allows existing shareholders to purchase additional shares at a discounted rate. This dilutes the ownership stake of the acquiring entity and makes the takeover more expensive. This strategy has helped the firm get 30% reductions in average settlement payouts for its clients.

In 2022, the firm had a revenue of $984 million, as reported by the National Law Journal.

14. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 1

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP is a British magic circle multinational law firm headquartered in London. It has a distinguished legal team that consists of 2,062 attorneys and the team includes prominent lawyers like Ethan Klingsberg, Elizabeth Bieber, and Damien Zoubek. The firm is at the forefront when it comes to litigation and complex US corporate and regulatory work. In 2023, according to the National Law Journal, Freshfields reported a revenue of £1.84 billion.

13. Latham & Watkins LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 1.5

Operating since 1934, Latham & Watkins is an American multinational law firm. By revenue, it is the second-largest law firm in the world, and it is also one of the most profitable law firms in the world. Latham Watkins was also ranked #1 in Bloomberg’s H1 2023 global activism league tables for its shareholder activism and takeover defense practice.

The firm employs more than 3,500 lawyers and is best known for its work in the general corporate, mergers & acquisitions, banking and finance, litigation, and antitrust domains. Latham & Watkins LLP’s key clients include Kohl's Corp (NYSE: KSS), the London Stock Exchange, and Thomson Reuters, as reported by Chambers.  

12. White & Case LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 1.5

White & Case LLP is a firm with 123 years of experience, about 3,000 attorneys, and 40 global offices as of 2024. The firm is best known for its work in the global M&A, finance, antitrust, arbitration, and financial restructuring and insolvency domains. 

For four years in a row, White & Case LLP has been ranked as the top global firm for activist shareholder representation in both Europe and Asia-Pacific by Bloomberg. In 2022, the firm was also ranked as the top legal advisor in Europe and Asia. It is regarded as an elite law firm for activist-side representations.

11. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 1.5

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is an American multinational law firm based in New York that deals in high-profile cases and proxy contests. It is best known for its work on mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, corporate governance, restructurings, and private equity investments. With an experience of 76 years, it has 1,700+ attorneys and 21 offices as of 2024. In 2023, Law Journal ranked Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP 16th in its ranking of 500 firms based on size. Based on revenue, the firm was ranked 5th on The American Lawyer's 2023 Am Law 200 ranking.

10. Akin LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 1.5

Founded in 1945 in Dallas, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld scaled to become one of the biggest law firms in the world, with over 900 lawyers and 18 offices worldwide. Ranging from M&A and antitrust to litigation and white-collar law, the firm handles nearly every legal need of the world’s top corporations. 

Akin is well known for representing high-profile companies, individuals, ad hoc groups, investors, and creditors’ committees in multi-billion-dollar financial restructurings. In the past year, the practice co-head of Akin, Philip Dublin, worked on deals involving nearly $27 billion in liabilities. While the key lawyer, Abid Qureshi, focuses on litigation in corporate reorganizations and recently worked with corporations like Diamond Sports, Revlon, Sears, Intelsat, Aeroméxico, and Chesapeake Energy.

9. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 2

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, a white-shoe law firm based in New York City, is one of the oldest law firms in the city. Founded in 1792, it is also one of the oldest continuously operating legal firms in the US today. It has a strong reputation in the shareholder activism domain and regularly advises shareholder activists on high-profile contests, including campaign strategies, compliance with securities laws, shareholder proposals, and antitrust regulations.

It has been ranked by Legal500, Chambers & Partners, the National Law Journal, and Vault. Moreover, key clients for this firm include Cavco Industries, Inc. and Corindus Vascular Robotics, Inc.

8. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 2

What started in New York back in 1888 with four lawyers, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP has now climbed to being one of the leading law firms in the US with over 1,200 lawyers and 14 offices across 6 countries. The firm readily handles some of the most complex litigation, from M&A transactions to a range of legal situations, including stockholder activism, takeover litigation, and litigation arising out of alleged conflicts of directors or financial advisors. 

Last year, in 2023, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP represented Xerox Holdings Corp (NASDAQ: XRX) in the repurchase of $542 million worth of shares owned by Carl Icahn. Moreover, Willkie also represented Sarissa Capital Management in its activist campaign against Amarin Corporation (NASDAQ: AMRN).

7. Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 2

Kirkland is an international law firm renowned for successfully defending their clients against leading activism campaigns as well as numerous first-time and unconventional actors. The firm was founded in 1909 and has served a broad range of high-profile clients around the world in litigation, shareholder activism, and other white-collar and government disputes.

A noteworthy recent case of Kirkland was representing and advising Huntsman Corporation (NYSE: HUN) on a successful proxy fight defense against prominent activist Starboard Value LP. The legal team members of Kirkland included the standout lawyers, Shaun Mathew and Daniel Wolf, taking the lead. 

6. Goodwin Procter LLP

Insider Monkey Score: 2

Goodwin Procter LLP was formed in 1912 when two young lawyers, Robert Eliot Goodwin and Joseph Osborne Procter, Jr., decided to start their own law practice. Today, nearly 2,000 lawyers work under Goodwin Procter LLP and look after clients in a wide range of legal practices, including shareholder activism & takeover defense, antitrust & competition, and financial litigation. 

Goodwin has represented Poshmark, Inc. (before its acquisition by Naver Corp) in defending against an activist campaign by Kinesic Capital. Moreover, the law firm has also defended Paramount Group, Inc. (NYSE: PGRE) against the Monarch Alternative Capital activism campaign that was forcing a bid to purchase the company.

Click here to continue reading and see the 5 Best Shareholder Activism Law Firms

Suggested articles:

Disclosure: None. 15 Best Shareholder Activism Law Firms is originally published on Insider Monkey.