Folks who study the Japanese even casually will eventually hear one of the more common proverbs -- "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down." That might be coming to life today for Mirant
The hedge fund in question, Pirate Capital LLC, operates under what is becoming a tried and true strategy. Buy up shares, raise a stink with the board of directors and management, air its gripes publicly if it doesn't get what it wants, and then start angling for board representation and general shareholder revolt.
In the past, those that faced this treatment (wholly or in part) have included GenCorp
What makes the Mirant case a little different -- at least so far -- is that Pirate owns only a relatively small piece of the pie. Though the fund has bought 10% or more of targeted companies in the past, it appears to own just 1.6% of Mirant -- making its threat to angle for control of the board seem a bit more grandiose than usual.
Now all of that aside, let's just consider for a moment that Pirate may often have a point. First, the fund has reportedly posted pretty good results -- something that doesn't necessarily mean it's "right," but at least means it deserves to be heard. Second, while I think agitators often go overboard with their accusations and degradations of targeted managements, most of Pirate's quarry does seem to deserve a public tongue-lashing.
In this particular case, I happen to agree that Mirant overreached in its attempt to buy NRG, though I'm not sure that putting the company up for immediate sale (as Pirate wants) is so much in the best interests of all the shareholders as it is in the interests of this hedge fund. Time will of course tell the tale, but with folks like Pirate Capital now on board, Mirant can most likely forget about sailing calm seas for the foreseeable future.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).