During the mid-noughties, you might remember a number of takeover bids for UK High Street chains came to grief (Sainsbury, M&S, WH Smith). Amongst the rocks on which those bids foundered were the objections of the target companies’ pension trustees. These events, in turn, put the role of the trustees under more intense media scrutiny than ever before.
Although M&A activity tailed off following the financial downturn, recent times have seen something of an uptick in takeovers , threatening once again to put trustees back in the media spotlight.
And it’s not just in takeover situations that pension trustees can become the subject of media interest. Others may face questions over their investment strategy, especially if returns have been poor, while yet others may have reasons for pro-actively seeking media coverage – such as an activist approach to corporate engagement, or responsible investment.
A new publication from MHP, Reputation Matters, looks at the pros and cons of trustee engagement with the media, and features contributions from the pension trustee point of view (John Adshead, Charles Amos) as well as the journalist’s angle (Anthony Hilton, Mark Cobley).
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, given that Hilton and Cobley are both journalists and pension fund trustees, but one of the striking things to emerge from the publication is the commonality of argument there is between the different contributors. Ultimately, they seem to agree, trustees may not want to engage with the media, and most of the time they may not need to. But at certain times and in certain circumstances, engagement with the press could be the better option.