It’s been a year of high-profile corporate battles, from hedge funder Bill Ackman’s war on Herbalife to infamous ’80s raider Carl Icahn’s fight with Dell. But nothing got more attention than Greenlight Capital president David Einhorn’s proposal that Apple should give back some of its $137 billion in spare cash in the form of preferred shares to investors like him. The battle marked a new era of shareholder activism, as investors push U.S. firms with $2 trillion on their balance sheets to not only part with cash but also change the way they do business.
Some of the changes investors are pressing for — checks on corporate pay and more-independent boards — are welcome. Others, like the Einhorn move, smack of short-term thinking. Indeed, CalPERS, the California government pension agency, stood behind Apple during the legal fight with Greenlight Capital. What’s clear is that we’ll see more barbarians at the gate.
Foroohar writes TIME‘s Curious Capitalist column
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