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Activist Investing Today: Davies’ Olasker on Ideological Lawyers, Women in Activism

Published: June 5th, 2023
The Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg partner discusses why a bifurcated U.S. legal advice system may change, why so few women work on M&A and activism and how that may change.

Top law firms in the U.S. either advise activist investors or companies targeted by insurgent managers, but not both. Expect that to change, as “in the rest of the world, lawyers are not expected to be ideologically committed to one side of the fight or the other,” said Patricia Olasker, a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP in Toronto.

“The bifurcation is a quirky American thing,” Olasker said on The Deal’s Activist Investing Today podcast. “I come at activism like I do any other mandate. I am just trying to help a client find a workable solution to a problem.”

Olasker, who advises both activists and companies targeted by funds, said it’s common practice in Canada for lawyers to work with both activists and target corporations. It’s an advantage to have someone “at the table who has real insight into the perspective of the other side and tricks and tools they might employ,” she said.

As a comparison, Olasker pointed out that historically only “rogue” law firms advised on hostile M&A bids, while today it’s mainstream business.

She explained why it’s still fairly rare for women to practice M&A and activist investing law, though that too is changing. “Women are rare in the activism and M&A space, and whether that is the hours, intensity or the machismo associated with the practice I don’t know,” she said. “The women I know in the space are fantastic. They are cool, calm, strategic and stay above the fray.”

Check out the podcast below, where Olasker discussed why there continue to be many hostile bids targeting mining and the broader energy sector in Canada, and she also offered her two cents about an recent settlement between an activist and Primo Water Corp. (PRMW) that included an unusual bylaw amendment adjustment.

Check out the podcast with Patricia Olasker below:

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