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What is Shareholder Activism?

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You’ve probably heard of environmental activists, anti-war activists, or animal rights activists. But what is a shareholder activist?

To get the ball rolling, a shareholder is someone who owns part of a publicly traded corporation through stock. While you may not think of yourself as an investor, if you have a 401k retirement account, access to a pension fund at work, or simply play around with the Robinhood app, you’re a shareholder!

Bringing the two concepts together, a shareholder activist is someone who leverages partial ownership in a corporation to punish or reward the behavior of its executives. Affecting the stock price is what gets their attention. And because of the internet, even minor shareholders can join together to have an outsized influence.

Shareholder activists put their money where their mouth is. For example, if “company A” is supporting a cause you don’t believe in, you can sell that stock and purchase ownership in “company B” instead.

Similar action can be taken with your 401k or pension plan. Those funds are invested somewhere and your first step is to figure out where. And then, if applicable, you can demand that money be divested from “company A” in favor of investing in “company B.”

Today, there are a number of threats that shareholder activism can help address.

Some corporations are participating in woke cancel culture, while others are prioritizing extreme environmentalism or unhinged social justice over running a good business. Americans can push back by pulling investments from these companies and supporting those who stand for free market principles.

In the past, activism has often been associated with hippies protesting against a war, or animal lovers demonstrating for cats and dogs to have better living conditions. But now, just by being aware of where your own money is being invested, you can help encourage executives to do what they do best: run their business as best they can on behalf of shareholders.