Bank Watch

Hedge fund says it’s disappointed Ally Financial disclosed discussions

Ally Financial signs hang outside the New York Stock Exchange in 2014 to mark when the company started trading its shares in an initial public offering. On Wednesday, a hedge fund criticized Ally for disclosing that it nominated candidates for its board of directors.
Ally Financial signs hang outside the New York Stock Exchange in 2014 to mark when the company started trading its shares in an initial public offering. On Wednesday, a hedge fund criticized Ally for disclosing that it nominated candidates for its board of directors.

An activist hedge fund said Wednesday that it is disappointed with Detroit-based Ally Financial’s disclosure this week of the fund’s nomination of candidates for Ally’s board of directors.

It’s the latest exchange in the dispute between New York-based Lion Point Capital and Ally, whose CEO is based in Charlotte, a major employment hub for the company.

Lion Point’s remarks follow Ally’s disclosure Tuesday that the hedge fund nominated two candidates to stand for election at Ally’s annual shareholders meeting in May. Ally said the nominations were made after it rejected Lion Point’s request to form a strategic alternatives committee, a move Ally said would be widely regarded as a decision to pursue a sale.

Lion Point criticized Ally for deciding to “immediately go public with our private nomination via a press release.”

The hedge fund said it is “particularly disappointed” by the move, “given that it directly contradicted Ally’s consistent statements that it was in the best interest of all stakeholders to keep any dialogue regarding strategic alternatives private.”

Lion Point said its intention has been to work privately with Ally’s board of directors – “to address what Lion Point believes to be the concerns of many shareholders on the significant gap between the company’s intrinsic value and its stock price.”

Shares of Ally have tumbled by roughly 26 percent from their initial public offering price of $25 on April 10, 2014. The KBW Bank Index, which tracks share performance of 24 large U.S. lenders, is down about 1.3 percent over the same period.

Ally has noted other accomplishments, including improvements to its operational and business strategies. It declined to comment beyond its news release Tuesday.

Ally previously went by the name General Motors Acceptance Corp., which was spun off from GM in 2006 and accepted $17.2 billion in a financial crisis bailout.

In 2010, GMAC changed its name to Ally Financial. The company is a large auto lender and the parent of online-only Ally Bank, which has no branches. Ally employs roughly 800 in Charlotte, where its name is on a South Church Street tower.

It remains unclear whether Ally will allow shareholders to vote on Lion Point’s director nominees, whose names haven’t been disclosed. Ally has said its board will evaluate the candidates.

Lion Point argues shareholders should get to vote on whether Ally should form a strategic alternatives committee. Such a committee could evaluate “all strategic opportunities, of which a sale is only one option,” Lion Point says.

Ally has said a sale is not in the best interests of its shareholders.

Lion Point said that, after meeting with Ally’s board last week, the hedge fund modified the proposal, allowing Ally to form the committee only if its stock price didn’t meet certain performance criteria. The proposal would be nonbinding, meaning Ally wouldn’t have to comply with it.

Lion Point owns about 1 percent of Ally’s common shares. The hedge fund was formed in 2014.

On Wednesday, Lion Point said it hopes “to continue the dialogue with Ally and its board.”

It’s not unusual this time of year for shareholders and public companies to battle over items investors want included on a company’s proxy statement, so they can be voted on at annual shareholders meetings.

In some cases, companies and investors reach agreements that can result in proposals being altered or dropped from a company’s proxy statement.

On Wednesday, Lion Point didn’t show plans to back down from its proposals, saying it intends to include them on its own proxy statement to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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