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Goldman holds top rank in activism defense, Spotlight climbs: data

Goldman Sachs GS.N ranked as the top adviser to companies targeted by activist investors during the first half of 2020 while Morgan Stanley MS.N dropped into fourth position as the coronavirus weighed on corporations, new Refinitiv data show.

During the first six months of 2020, Goldman advised on 21 campaigns, including eBay, Twitter and Harley Davidson, down from 23 in the first half of 2019.

Morgan Stanley, which had long held the top spot, advised on 8 campaigns compared with 9 the same time a year ago.

Spotlight Advisors, founded by Greg Taxin, a lawyer who worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Securities, jumped into the No. 2 spot with 17 campaigns, including Tegna, Synalloy and GameStop, compared with 21 a year ago.

Spotlight works for both companies and activists, while most banks work only for corporations.

Evercore Partners worked on 10 campaigns, the same as a year ago, to take the No.3 spot.

League tables are compiled by various providers and are often used as data points to woo clients. But they seldom tell the entire story, bankers have said, noting that discrepancies can arise because many companies fend off activists privately and ask their advisers to stay silent about their involvement.

During the first half activist investors launched 243 campaigns, marking a 2% increase from a year earlier, Refinitiv data show. Hedge fund Starboard Value was the busiest with seven campaigns launched.

Innisfree M&A Inc was the No. 1 proxy solicitor, handling 29 matters while Olshan Frome Wolosky was the top legal advisor with 40 matters.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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