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How to Blunt Shareholder Activism: Ask It for a Date

Attention CEOs: here's a novel way of blunting unwanted criticism from shareholders.

For years, Evelyn Y. Davis, a self-styled 79-year-old corporate governance gadfly, has lambasted management at annual meetings of many marquee name firms. From her office at the Watergate of Richard Nixon fame, Davis pores over annual reports of the many firms in which she holds stock and comes well-prepared to tongue-lash C-Suites for grandiose comp packages and golden parachutes

I'll never forget her performance at a Procter & Gamble annual meeting in the 1990s. Ms.Davis was tucking it to CEO John Pepper. One of the many hyper-loyal P&G retirees and big shareholders was in the room and he attacked Ms. Davis. She shot back that maybe he needed some "Viagra." Then, the retiree's elderly wife got up to the mike and indignantly retorted that her beloved husband "had no need of Viagra."

So, how do you handle a pistol like that? Kenneth Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, has an idea. When he was at a ballroom in the Plaza Hotel in New York accepting the "Banker of the Year" award from American Banker magazine last week, Evelyn Y. Davis was at his side.
Lewis had invited Davis to the gala as his "special guest."

But can Evelyn Y. Davis be bought that cheaply? Stay tuned to BoA's next shareholder's meeting to find out.

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