From Barbarians in the Boardroom by Owen Walker. Copyright [c] 2016 by the author. Published by Pearson (www. pearson-books.com).
Activists started to become more influential when they took advantage of the lack of communication between companies and their shareholders. They targeted boards and executives who were seen as particularly resistant to letting investors meddle in the way they ran their company. When activists launched proxy fights against these companies, other shareholders increasingly gave them their support as a way of loosening these entrenched boards.
But as corporate directors have sought to make themselves less vulnerable to an activist's attack, they are increasingly courting institutional investors. Where just a few years ago managers at mutual funds and pension plans would have been lucky to get a five-minute call with a company...