Moody’s Says Activists Threaten Credit Ratings

Mar 13 2014 | 11:25am ET

Ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service has fired a shot across the bow of shareholder activists, warning that their increasingly successful efforts are bad news for bondholders.

In a report this week, Moody’s said that activist-led companies are at increased risk of default and could suffer ratings downgrades. The agency cited activists’ frequent demand to return cash to shareholders, which it warns could decrease a company’s debt cushion.

“Activism is rarely good news for creditors,” Moody’s concluded.

Unfortunately for bondholders, they can expect more of it: Moody’s said it saw campaigns against 56 companies it rates last year, and expects to see more targeted in the future.

It’s easy to see why: According to Factset, activist investors won more board seats last year than in any year since 2009. “The widespread support activists are getting from mainstream institutional investors is undoubtedly a key driver of the increased willingness of companies to offer up board representation,” it wrote.

Moody’s report comes after it weighed in on Corvex Management’s bid to oust the board of directors at CommonWealth REIT. While that campaign has won the backing of major proxy advisors and is expected to succeed, Moody’s said on Friday it was reviewing CommonWealth’s debt for a possible downgrade, pending the outcome of the vote.

In Depth

Financial Industry Blockchain Consortium R3 To Open-Source Platform Code

Oct 20 2016 | 9:03pm ET

Bitcoin's blockchain technology has spawned a flurry of activity among fintech startups...


Hedge Funds Swarm Into Palm Beach

Oct 27 2016 | 2:32pm ET

As the first flakes of snow fall on New York's northern suburbs, Dan Weil of South...

Guest Contributor

Hedge Fund Marketing – Tips for Your Initial Sales Meeting

Sep 29 2016 | 5:46pm ET

There are two main goals a hedge fund should have for an initial in-person sales...