Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pershing Square and Regulatory Capture

I had to read the WSJ Pershing Square's taking an "activist" stake in Procter twice, and I'm still confused.  Here's the relevant passage, "Mr. Ackman's move became known via the Federal Trade Commission, which gave Mr. Ackman's hedge fund antitrust clearance to proceed with the investment. Moves by activists are usually made known by filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Buying enough stock to require a quick SEC filing—5%—would cost about $8.8 billion." 

So, in order to save Pershing Square time and money, the fund shops for clearance at the FTC?  Isn't this the kind of regulatory capture that we moaned about during the financial crisis?  Is Pershing Square planning on going into the global personal care business?  If not, what's the relevance of an antitrust clearance?  Shouldn't the FTC have said, "Sorry, go and get your blessing from my friends at the SEC?"  Also, with the FTC's blessing, it's not even clear to the Journal how much of a stake has been blessed.  Nice transparency for the equity market.

Incidentally, I really liked the quote from the Procter and Gamble CFO, "We welcome listening and learning from any investor."  Well said.  Let the fun begin.

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