Joseph Mariathasan: The benefits of shareholder activism

first_imgJoseph Mariathasan assesses the merit of so-called activist fundsKarl Marx is not the economist whose views most fund managers would claim to follow. But if you ever visit his grave at the once fashionable Victorian cemetery in Highgate, North London, you will see the epitaph inscribed beneath his bust: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” Some fund managers have taken this axiom very much to heart and, in their interactions with the companies they follow, seek not just to interpret the information they get but to change the companies themselves.In the US, activist investing has been around for decades, but there is some evidence indicating it is increasing. In 2015, the number of companies receiving public demands by an activist investor grew by 16%, according to Activist Insight. But activist funds have not been getting good press recently. Activist firm ValueAct, for example, was the driving force behind the growth of now struggling pharmaceutical company Valeant. Concerns about the impact of activist firms in encouraging very short-term focus by management in the US has led to two US Senate Democrats introducing a bill in March co-sponsored by Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, and presidential contender Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The Bill – apparently inspired by the closure of a paper mill in Wisconsin that was the target of activist fund manager Starboard Value in 2011 – aimed to curb the behaviour of activist hedge funds.At another level, shareholder activism has been tied in with the general debate on corporate governance and the necessity for fund managers to exercise active voting. For most fund managers, this has been a chore that adds little to their ability to outperform their peers and arguably detracts from it by the amount of resources it consumes, leading to the development of engagement-overlay providers – specialist providers that do not manage the underlying investment but provide voting and engagement services to asset owners. But perhaps the deepest criticism of activist intervention of this type are the arguments marshalled by commentators such as Arjuna Sittambalam, who believes corporate-governance activism can stifle enterprise and damage investment returns. Sittampalam’s assertion in his 2004 book – Corporate Governance Activism: Desirable Doctrine or Damaging Dogma? – is that fund managers, instead of pressurising for change, should stick to selling the stocks they dislike, while company management should be left to get on with their jobs, something that, in most cases, they are better equipped to do than a fund manager. Moreover, it is the existence of accountable and independent boards that should be taking the role of ensuring management does not cause the company’s decline through mismanagement.The debate over the role and benefits of shareholder activism is likely to run and run and ultimately will depend on the other checks and balances inherent in the local financial environment, which still can differ significantly from one developed economy to the next. In the US, shareholders have less power and rights than in the UK, so an activist shareholder has to take a much more aggressive approach to influence boards and chief executives.What may be clearer is that taking some of the private equity disciplines and applying them to selected listed companies may be able to produce substantial benefits. However, with such a high level of engagement with a small number of small and mid-cap stocks, the capacity constraints for an activist manager are important. At these levels, activist funds may be profitable for their investors, but they are hardly likely to change the world.Joseph Mariathasan is a contributing editor at IPElast_img read more

Viterbi helps IBM create a new computing robot

first_imgJeopardy! pitted the man versus the machine Monday night, as Watson, a computing system that uses Question Answering technology, was quicker than its human opponents in 24 out of 30 “Double Jeopardy” questions.Mr. Roboto · Steve Canepa, IBM’s general manager, hosted a watch party Tuesday to view the launch of Watson on Jeopardy!. Students were impressed by the system’s language skills. – Robin Laird | Daily Trojan Members of the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute are among a group of scientists from eight universities who are working to advance Watson, which was designed by IBM to understand human language and language complexities and to provide answers to factual questions.Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, sorts through its extensive database and tries to provide precise answers quickly. Watson is even able to understand different attributes of human language such as rhyming, alliteration, slang, riddles and puns.Steve Canepa, IBM’s general manager, hosted a watch party at University Gateway on Tuesday for students to watch Watson’s Jeopardy! debut.“It takes Watson an average of three seconds to answer a question,” said Jennifer Chu-Carroll, a research staff member and manager at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. “And it looks through a database of over 1 million books.”Chu-Carroll has worked on many parts of the Watson system, focusing primarily on developing the system’s ability to quickly narrow down the information in its repertoire to what is relevant to the question being asked. Watson finds about 100 sentences that it thinks could contain the answer and ranks the possibilities in order of confidence.“If Watson is 90 percent sure, it’ll buzz its answer in. If it’s 40 percent sure, it probably won’t,” Chu-Carroll said.Students who attended the watch party were intrigued by Watson’s grasp of the English language.“When you consider all the nuances of the human language, it’s impressive that Watson understands so much of it,” said Peter Perez, a graduate student studying engineering management.Members of Viterbi’s ISI first became involved with IBM in 2001, but only as part of a government-funded research program.Inspired by the QA technology that many universities were developing in their labs, IBM scientists designed Watson over the course of about seven years and then invited other scientists from universities such as USC, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Texas to collaborate on the project. USC has had QA technology for about 10 years, but it was separate from the Watson project.The ISI team specifically contributed to Watson’s parsing ability, the process of analyzing a text, and its inference skills, the ability to reason and draw conclusions.IBM hopes Watson will revolutionize many industries and even assist in research.“There is so much information out there. It is beyond anyone’s ability to go through all of it,” Chu-Carroll said. “So one thing we have tried to do is bridge the gap between the human user and the vast amount of information available.”Eduard Hovy, director of the ISI Human Language Technology group and research associate professor of computer science at USC, said Watson could not only be used to greatly improve the confidence of existing search engines, but could also be used for troubleshooting, business intelligence and medical assistance.“Medical information is growing so quickly, no doctor can stay up-to-date,” Hovy said.Advanced QA technology could be used to sort through medical information and give diagnoses based on patient symptoms. The doctor would then evaluate the information provided and make the ultimate judgment call.Watson’s ability to answer questions as well as a human is currently being tested in the first human versus computer competition on Jeopardy! which will air for the last time today.“We felt as though our system performs well enough, that it would put up a respectable fight whether it wins or loses,” Chu-Carroll said.Watson is a big step forward in language technology. It’s a precursor for the way computers will be designed and how people will be able to communicate with them in the future, according to Chu-Carroll.“As researchers, we’ve known that [technology like Watson] has been possible for a long time, but it’s great to see it finally being realized,” Hovy said.Students are excited about the possibilities for future technology after watching Watson on Jeopardy!.“I think it’s great to see this advancement in technology,” said Sinead Hinson, a junior majoring in public relations. “Who knows what will happen with the next generation.”last_img read more

Guinness World Records: 6-year-old Punjab boy attempts skating 16km blindfolded

first_imgAlso read | India Guinness World Records: Chennai man sets world record for solving most Rubik’s cubes underwater(Image credits: International Book of Records YouTube) Written By COMMENT WE RECOMMEND 2 weeks ago Guinness World announces ‘most t-shirts worn at once’ record, netizens want to beat it First Published: 4th September, 2020 16:04 IST LIVE TV 1 week ago Professional strongman tears apart vehicle license plates with bare hands, watch video WATCH US LIVE FOLLOW US Devika Pawar Six-year-old Pranav Chauhan is reportedly trying to make a new skating record. Previously breaking a record for International Book of Records under the limbo skating category, the Ludhiana-based boy is aiming to skate to blindfolded for 16 km in one hour and 16 minutes. Pranav attempted the challenge this week and has apparently sent out an application to the Guinness World Records for making another record. Also read | Professional strongman tears apart vehicle license plates with bare hands, watch videoGuinness World Records: Punjab boy aims for blindfolded skating recordAs of now, Pranav Chauhan has two records in the International Book of Records. If he completes the blindfolded skating record, Pranav will have three international records under his belt while he is only 6 years old. However, Pranav’s attempt is to be verified by Guinness World Records. Chauhan attempted to break the record on Friday and skated blindfolded at the Layer Valley Skating Stadium in Ludhiana on Friday. As per reports, Pranav took one hour and 16 minutes to skate. Also read | Ecuadorian pair becomes World’s Oldest Couple with combined age of almost 215 yearsHis father, Surinder Kumar, spoke to ANI about the record. The current world record is 14km and they will be sending in the details for the new world record. Pranav, who is now six, started skating when he was only three and a half years old. His coach, Manish Pathak also spoke about Pranav breaking international records. He sees immense potential in Pranav and believes his hard work and motivation has paid off.According to the Times of India (TOI), Pranav covered 80 rounds of 200 metres each. To monitor his skating, local administrators were present. If Pranav manages to break the record, he will be the first Indian to have three world records at the age of six. Pranav’s record for limbo skating is for skating for the maximum number of times between two lanes of ten cones with a gap of 23 cm between them.The young skater finished 61 rounds in 29 minutes and 42 seconds. He broke the record last year, when he was five years old. In February, he completed a marathon of 30 km in two hours, which was also administered by district officials. While talking to TOI, Pranav credited his father and coach for his success, admitting to previous challenges in the form of multiple injuries. However, the six-year-old from Abdulpur Basti later overcame the difficulties before starting his professional career. They continued to train during the pandemic via online sessions, Chauhan told TOI. Pranav is also aiming to participate for the 400m race among blindfolded skaters to make a Guinness World Record. Also read | Guinness World Records shares video of ‘extreme basketball challenge’, netizens amazedPunjab boy skating record for limbo skating 3 weeks ago Guinness World Records shares video of ‘extreme basketball challenge’, netizens amazed Last Updated: 4th September, 2020 16:04 IST Guinness World Records: 6-year-old Punjab Boy Attempts Skating 16km Blindfolded Guinness World Records: Six-year-old Punjab boy named Pranav Chauhan has reportedly broken a Guinness World Record by skating blindfolded for 1 hour & 16 mins. 1 week ago Ecuadorian pair becomes World’s Oldest Couple with combined age of almost 215 years 1 week ago Good News: Chennai man sets world record for solving most Rubik’s cubes underwater SUBSCRIBE TO USlast_img read more

Abby Wambach on Megan Rapinoe, USWNT: They’re redefining ‘what it means to be a woman’

first_imgThe national team that competed in France started political conversations, faced criticism about their celebrations and grew awareness around the pay gap between the women’s and men’s game — demanding a change to be made. Wambach, who played in the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 World Cups, said she’s proud of the national team for taking a stand. Related News Former U.S. women’s national team great Abby Wambach shared her observation of the 2019 Women’s World Cup championship team, giving praise to the players not only for their accomplishments on the field, but also the conversations they sparked off of it. “They’re trying to redefine what it means to be a woman,” Wambach told USA Today. “So many women believe … that we’re just supposed to be polite and say, ‘Thank you so much, we’re so grateful to be here.’ And you know what, that was so four years ago.” “Four years ago, our world wasn’t ready for somebody to be as vocal and unapologetic as Megan Rapinoe is. They are now,” Wambach said. “The way that she’s gone about it and the way that she’s navigated this whole thing has been nearly perfect in my mind. The team and Megan have fought for something that is bigger than just soccer because a win for this team is a win for women everywhere.”Rapinoe embraced her platform in France, as she brought attention to women’s soccer and controversial issues throughout the world.“It’s our responsibility to make the world a better place,” Rapinoe said in a speech at the USWNT victory parade in New York. “I think our team does an incredible job of taking that on our shoulders and understanding the position that we have and the platform that we have. Yes we play sports, yes we play soccer, yes we’re female athletes, but we’re so much more than that. … This conversation is at the next step. We have to collaborate, it takes everybody.”MIC. DROPPED. 🎤Watch @mPinoe’s Victory Parade speech in its entirety. 🇺🇸— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 10, 2019 “They’re saying, ‘You know what, we’re going to do this our way. We’re going to be unapologetic, we’re going to be confident and we’re going to celebrate our a— off because guess what, that is what we want to do,’” Wambach said. “And (they’re) allowed to do that because they’re strong, powerful women who deserve it. And when one woman does it, then it gives permission for the next woman to do it.”In the months leading up to the World Cup, the U.S. national team started conversations about the pay gap as 28 members — including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan — filed a lawsuit in March against the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming there is institutionalized gender discrimination between the women’s and the men’s sport.The issue extends internationally, as well. The U.S. will share a pot of $4 million for winning the tournament, while France’s men’s squad earned $38 million for winning in Russia last year. At the next Women’s World Cup in 2023, FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants to increase the prize money to $60 million, yet at the men’s competition in 2022, teams in Qatar will have a pot of $440 million.During the Women’s World Cup, the players who filed the lawsuit announced they had agreed to mediation and will resolve the issues after they get back to the United States. France’s tournament gave the players even more of a platform to speak out and demand a change from FIFA as Infantino was booed during the trophy presentation and chants of “equal pay” broke out. Women’s World Cup 2019: TV ratings soar during USWNT final Women’s World Cup 2019: Megan Rapinoe keeps pay-gap conversation going on ‘GMA’ Women’s World Cup 2019: Former U.S. coach and star hope triumph transforms domestic gamelast_img read more