Dan Loeb cancels pension confab appearance amid potential protests

By Rob Copeland

Wed Apr 17, 2013


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The Third Point founder had been accused of "biting the hand that feeds him."


   
  Third Point founder Dan Loeb
(Photo: Bloomberg)
Third Point founder Dan Loeb may use a poison pen when he's writing about poor corporate leadership, but he's apparently more sensitive when the barbs are about him.

The billionaire said today he had canceled an appearance before some of the country's biggest institutional investors Thursday after it emerged that he would have been confronted by attendees about  his perceived anti-union politics.

The controversy began last week when Matt " Vampire Squid" Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone of Loeb's affiliation with StudentsFirst, an organization that has pushed for states to abandon defined benefit plans. Local magazine Washington Monthly followed earlier this week with a headline calling Loeb "the man who wants to protect (and eliminate) teachers' pensions." The irony was lost on neither that the founder of $11.7 billion Third Point would be pitching for cash from these same organizations later this week when he spoke to the Council of Institutional Investors' spring conference in Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, the New York Post weighed in with a "Flunk you, Loeb!" headline and reported that "several trustees for teacher pension plans" planned to "challenge Loeb for biting the hand that feeds him" at the event.

Yet Loeb was still set to speak Thursday morning at CII about "hedge funds and corporate governance" alongside fellow activist hedge fund manager Barry Rosenstein of $4 billion JANA Partners. They were due to be interviewed by Anne Sheehan, director of corporate governance for the $164 billion California State Teachers Retirement System.

That all changed Wednesday afternoon. "Unfortunately, we agree that the critical conversation we planned to have about improving Corporate Governance has been derailed by these false reports," Loeb wrote in an open letter distributed to attendees. He could not immediately be reached for additional comment.

In a statement, Sheehan said, "I deeply regret but understand Dan Loeb's decision to cancel his appearance."

JANA partner Charlie Penner confirmed that Rosenstein would still speak, and declined further comment.

Rosenstein has no affiliation with StudentsFirst, which was founded by former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2010. On its website, the organization says, "States must avoid making promises they cannot afford to keep. For this reason, states should move from defined benefits to retirement plans that are more sustainable and can be immediately accessed by all teachers."

Loeb's full letter to Sheehan follows:

Dear Anne:

Over the past week, incorrect statements about my position on the issue of Defined Benefit Pension Plans ("DB Plans") have been made in conjunction with my planned appearance at CII's conference this week. Unfortunately, we agree that the critical conversation we planned to have about improving Corporate Governance has been derailed by these false reports.

I believe it is important to set the record straight for CII's members, who share our desire to strengthen the relationship between institutional investors and asset managers. Contrary to reports, I have never taken a position against DB Plans nor has any philanthropic organization I lead. In fact, my support for and contribution to DB Plans is demonstrated by maximizing returns for union members who rely on us to deliver their pension goals.

I regret to miss an important dialogue about Corporate Governance with your members, but look forward to resuming this conversation more productively in the future.

Sincerely,

Daniel S. Loeb