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Moelis hires from BlackRock, hedge fund for activist defense team

(Reuters) - Investment bank Moelis & Co said on Monday it has hired an executive from the world’s largest index fund manager, BlackRock Inc, as well as a hedge fund professional, for its team advising companies facing activist shareholders.

Ted Moon, who had been a principal at Will Mesdag’s hedge fund Red Mountain Capital Partners, recently joined Moelis as an executive director in its Los Angeles office, the bank confirmed on Monday.

Moelis said it also hired Peter da Silva Vint, a former vice president in BlackRock’s investment stewardship unit, as an executive director at the firm’s New York office. He starts on Monday.

“We are excited about the combination of them because they will allow us to provide more insightful advice to our clients in noncontested situations and advise them on how to interact and think about their shareholders and where their mindsets are,” Craig Wadler, a managing director who heads Moelis’ shareholder defense practice, said in an interview.

Moelis, which has advised activist investors in the past, does not work with activists anymore, following other banks seeking to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The Moelis hires come as investors, including many hedge funds, are prodding corporations to shake up their businesses by spinning off units, buying back their own stock and sometimes overhauling management and boards of directors.

To defend against hedge funds such as Trian Fund Management and Third Point LLC, investment banks have been adding to their defense teams to offer corporate America more expertise on how to evaluate governance, executive compensation and other issues where they may be vulnerable.

Wadler said Moon and da Silva Vint have “real experience” in what activist hedge funds want to see done and how big index funds, which now make up the bulk of shareholders at many companies, think when it comes to voting as shareholders.

Other firms have also been seeking to get more into shareholder activist defending. In early November, financial public relations firm ICR launched a business to advise corporate boards and hired Lyndon Park, who previously headed global corporate governance at Dimensional Fund Advisors.

PJT Partners Inc, run by veteran investment banker Paul Taubman, in August paid $165 million to acquire shareholder advisory firm CamberView Partners, which companies often use to get a better sense of their shareholder base.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston and Liana B. Baker in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis