Sovereign Bancorp and Relational Investors, The Role of the Activist Hedge Fund
In 2005, Relational Investors, a registered investment advisor, launched a proxy contest to gain two seats on the board of directors of Sovereign Bancorp. Relational accused Sovereign of operational mismanagement and poor corporate governance, representing a breach in fiduciary responsibility by the company’s board of directors. Relational claimed that a board reconstitution was in the best interest of investors. Subsequently, Sovereign entered into a controversial three-way deal with Banco Santander Central Hispano of Spain, which thwarted Relational’s efforts by diluting its ownership position and by giving Santander board seats and veto power over the removal of Sovereign’s CEO. The case discusses the tactics used by Relational Investors to attempt to derail the Santander deal and the tactics used by Sovereign Bancorp to defend it.