The return of the poison-pill defence
POISON pills are again being dispensed by corporate America with all the enthusiasm of an exterminator in a rat-infested basement. The metaphorical rodents nowadays are not just hostile bidders—the pests that the poison-pill defence was designed to exterminate, back in the 1980s—but in some cases shareholders simply trying to change the way companies are run.
在束手无策的鼠患下，美国公司再次祭出了“毒丸”这项的杀招 。在上世纪80年代，“老鼠”仅表示资本市场上的恶意收购者，而这也是毒丸防御系统最初的针对目标 。但在如今的某些情况下，“毒丸”所对付的对象也转向了一些试图改变公司营运方针的股东 。
In a typical poison-pill scheme, the board of a company makes a rule that if anyone buys more than a certain percentage of its shares, it will issue lots of stock to all other shareholders, dramatically reducing the first investor's stake. In Britain, which has long taken a more positive view of hostile bids, poison pills are all but banned. In America, the courts have repeatedly held them to be legal. But they had become scarcer in recent years, as takeovers dried up and shareholders got some schemes dismantled. Now, M&A is booming, activist investors are back on the warpath and defences are being rebuilt.
在一般的情况下，实施毒丸防御的公司，由公司董事会事先通过一项股权摊薄条款，一旦出现收购者收购公司一定比例的股份，即触发该条款生效，使公司原有股东可以较低的价格获得公司大量股份，从而稀释收购方的股份 。在英国，人们对待恶意收购的行为是比较积极的，因此毒丸防御成为了明令禁止的条款 。而在美国，法院则三番五次地站出来为毒丸防御的合法性背书 。但由于近年来收购案的减少以及公司股东们对阴谋的沉着应对，使用“毒丸”的情况也愈发罕见 。如今，随着企业并购案的迅猛增长，活跃的投资者重返战场，这也意味着股东们的防御计划也得随之重启 。
On June 28th the board of American Apparel, a clothing retailer, enacted a poison-pill scheme. It is seeking to avert a less-than-friendly takeover by its former boss, Dov Charney, whom the board had removed ten days earlier over some as-yet unspecified allegations of misconduct. Mr Charney has sealed a partnership with Standard General, a hedge fund, with the help of which he now controls a 43% stake.
6月28日，服装零售商美国服饰的董事层实施了毒丸防御计划 。美国服饰正极力避免一场不太友好的收购，而其收购方正是该公司的前任老板多夫·查尼 。正是在十天前，多夫·查尼由于一些至今仍未指明的不当行为被公司逐出了管理层 。查尼先生已与基金公司Standard General达成了合作协议，而目前在后者的帮助下，他已经控制了美国服饰43%的股权 。
The previous day a lawsuit over the poison pill adopted by Allergan, best known for its Botox anti-wrinkle treatment, was settled out of court. It had been brought by Pershing Square, a fund run by one of the most prominent shareholder activists, Bill Ackman. He won an agreement from Allergan that its defences would not be triggered by his collaboration with other shareholders to call a special meeting to elect new board members.
先前的一宗与肉毒素生厂商美国爱力根（Allergan）有关的毒丸防御案件当中，矛盾最终在庭外得到了解决 。由活跃投资人威廉·阿克曼执掌的资产管理公司潘兴广场对冲基金正是本案中的收购方 。在与爱力根股东会面的特别会议中，阿克曼与其他股东的意见达成了一致，通过该会议选举出了新任的董事会成员，从而避免了一场毒丸防御战 。
Pershing Square, which has just less than the 10% stake at which the poison pill is triggered, has teamed up with Valeant, another medical company, to bid for Allergan. Its defences may prevent them from pursuing their bid in the conventional way, by continuing to buy shares. But the out-of-court agreement opens the way for them to achieve their objective by putting new people on the board who would be more open to a takeover.
在潘兴广场的持股比例快到10%之际，爱力根的董事层便实施了毒药防御计划，而前者则随即与另一家医疗公司威朗合作，对后者进行收购 。通过定向增发股份的传统方法或许能够阻止他们常规手段的收购，但对于利用庭外协议往董事会中插入新成员的方法，使得收购方能够在更开放的董事支持下达成控制的目标 。
Earlier last month Family Dollar, a discount retailer, created a poison pill after Carl Icahn, another activist, bought just under 10% of its shares amid speculation that he was planning to engineer a merger with Dollar General, a competitor. And News Corporation renewed its poison-pill scheme, allowing Rupert Murdoch and his family, with their 39.4% stake, to fend off any attempt to take over the company now it has been split from 21st Century Fox, its former entertainment arm.
在上月的早些时候，折扣零售商家庭美元在投资商卡尔·伊坎购入不到10%的股权的情况下，便实施了毒丸防御计划 。据猜测，伊坎正准备推动家庭美元与另一家竞争对手达乐公司进行合并 。与此同时，和21世纪福克斯公司正式分家了的新闻集团正通过改变自身的毒丸防御计划，允许鲁伯特·默多克和他的家族成员以合计39.4%的股份，与外来收购方进行对抗 。
But these days some activists do not want to take over a firm, just to create a sort of “loyal opposition” to the board, leaving it largely intact while pressing it to change strategy. Earlier this year Sotheby's, an auction house listed in New York, adopted a poison pill to fend off attempts by Dan Loeb, another activist, to win representation on the board and shake up the firm.
但最近部分投资者并没有想要去控制一家公司，只是在董事会当中创造一种“少数反对”的因子，在保持管理层完整的情况下迫使公司改变自身的经营战略 。而在今年的早些时候，纽约苏富比拍卖行接受了一项毒丸防御条款，以阻止激进投资者丹·罗卜赢得董事会的席位，从而动摇公司的根基 。
Mr Loeb's fund, Third Point, went to court seeking a ruling that it was exempt from the 10% trigger, so it could buy more shares. In May a judge in Delaware rejected its request, arguing that a bigger stake would give the fund “negative control” over Sotheby's, whatever that may mean, even though he acknowledged it would “not have an explicit veto power”. Nevertheless, Sotheby's later agreed to give board seats to Mr Loeb and two colleagues.
罗卜领军的避险基金第三点，向法院提起了诉讼，要求自身豁免10%的毒丸防御，进而购入更多的股份 。在五月，一位特拉华州的法官回绝了该项请求 。虽然法官明白罗卜并没有得到“明确的否决权”，但他认为更大份额的股权会令罗卜有能力对苏富比实施“负面影响的控制”，且不论这种控制的具体方式 。尽管如此，罗卜最终还是为自己以及他的两位同事拿下了三个董事席位 。
Despite this and Mr Ackman's success in the Allergan legal settlement, the ruling over Sotheby's suggests that poison pills may be used to hinder not just full takeovers but attempts by activists to force a change in strategy. Lucian Bebchuk, a Harvard law professor and campaigner for corporate-governance reforms, calls this “pernicious”: the board would be seeking to stifle legitimate debate among the owners of the company by making it hard to build a majority for change. Mr Bebchuk was an author of a study that examined the roughly 2,000 activist interventions at companies between 1994 and 2007, which found that they typically led to an improvement in the companies' operating performance in the following five years.
除了上述案例以及阿克曼先生成功在爱力根公司达成的合法协议外，股东们对苏富比公司的控制表明，毒丸防御不仅仅在对抗全面收购的收购方，同时也在阻碍着投资方对公司经营战略的影响 。哈佛法学院教授卢西恩·拜伯切克，同时也是一位公司治理改革运动的倡导者，认为这样的情况是“有害的”：董事会通过对形成赞成改革群体的限制，从而扼杀了合法的公司内部改革争论 。在拜伯切克先生之前的研究里，粗略地对大约2000位投资者在1994年至2007年间的公司事务干预进行统计，结果发现这些投资者显然都能带领公司在接下来的五年内实现运营表现的提升 。
No doubt delighted that the poison pill has made a comeback, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, the law firm that invented it, has also been seeking to make things harder still for activists by proposing a rule that anyone building a stake of 5% or more in a firm must disclose it within one day, not ten as now. So far the Securities and Exchange Commission is showing little interest. Indeed, its chairman, Mary Jo White, has argued that activists' attempts to jog boards are not always a bad thing.
毫无疑问地，毒丸防御强势回归，而发明了这一条款的Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz律师事务所也在持续地对外来投资者进行限制，该公司规定任何投资者只要持有股份达5%或者更多，那么这位投资者必须在一天内披露自己的身份，远比目前10%的行业标准要低 。到目前为止，美国证券交易委员会对这样条款反应冷淡 。实际上，委员会主席玛丽·乔·怀特早已强调投资者积极想要跻身董事会的情况，并不总是一件坏事 。
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