Funds News

Law firm Grant & Eisenhofer hires Oestreich to build activism practice

BOSTON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Law firm Grant & Eisenhofer is launching a new shareholder activism practice and has hired a director to pull in fresh business from investors prodding companies to perform better by improving capital allocation, governance and operations.

Jonathan Oestreich joined Grant & Eisenhofer in December to head a team that is still being put together, the firm’s managing director, Jay Eisenhofer, said. The team will include financial, legal and governance experts.

“Although we’ve advocated for investors for the entire 21-year run of our firm, we saw an opportunity to create a dedicated activism practice separate from our litigation platform,” Eisenhofer said.

A lawyer by training, Oestreich previously worked at shareholder activism advisory firm Spotlight Advisors, which focuses on activism and proxy fights.

Before that, Oestreich worked as a banker at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions and ran the contested situations practice for the bank.

Grant & Eisenhofer, already known for representing large investors like the California Public Employees Retirement Association, the Florida State Board of Administration and financial services firm John Hancock, is now expanding its practice to offer activist investors more supporting services.

The new business is meant to help these investors, including hedge funds, execute campaigns and help them identify potential opportunities.

The law firm is headquartered in Delaware and has directors instead of partners, the highest rank at most other law firms.

Grant & Eisenhofer is expanding its business at a time many banks are broadening their activism defense practices to help corporations fend off overtures from investors like Elliott Management and others who often demand that management run the business better. These types of activist investors often want management to sell divisions, buy back shares or overhaul boards.

While corporate America can have its pick among so-called defense bankers, ranging from bulge bracket firms like Goldman Sachs to boutique firms like Evercore, there are fewer resources available for activist investors, industry sources say.

Many banks have stopped working with investors in order to focus solely on companies and avoid the whiff of conflict, the sources added.

Industry data shows there were more than 100 activists who targeted roughly 200 companies in 2018. (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss Editing by Tom Brown)