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Across America in thousnds of publicly traded companies, investor relations (IR) professionals and top executives are struggling to communicate corporate news effectively in an on-edge, suspicious environment of 24/7 financial information. Billions in stock value can be gained or obliterated quickly. based in no small part on how well the IR pros make the company's case and manage expectations. Earnings announcements, analyst reports, insider stock transactions (even if legal), and more all have a magnified impact on stock movements in today's climate. With contributions from leading IR experts, Benjamin Mark Cole has put together an incisive and practical blueprint for success in investor relations today. Filled with ancedotes and case studies of good--and bad--IR, this book provides indispensable, hands-on guidance.
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BENJAMIN MARK COLE has been a financial journalist for more than twenty years. He has written for numerous publications and helped launch Investor's Business Daily. For the Los Angeles Business Journal he currently writes the "Wall Street West" column. He is the author of award-winning The Pied Pipers of Wall Street: How Analysis Sell You Down the River.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
INTRODUCTION The landscape for Wall Street and publicly held American corporations in the past several years has changed more than at any time since the Great Depression, and with that, the operating environment for investor relations professionals. Arguably, only the early years of the Great Depression, with the seminal Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, resulted in greater alterations for public companies than the reforms and changes in sentiment resulting from the post-1990s meltdown on Wall Street. Yet as important as relatively recent legal and regulatory changes are—such as Regulation Fair Disclosure (Regulation FD) or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act—Wall Street and publicly held companies were already entering an environment much different from that existing just a generation ago. A most notable advent has been the proliferation of financial media, especially electronic services. Few Americans need to be reminded of the ubiquity of cable television, which rendered "narrow casting" economically feasible. Amid the flood of new shows were the all-financial stations, which now routinely air in newsrooms and trading houses across the nation, seemingly incessantly. And the Internet, with its marvelous ability to immediately present and then archive news stories, press releases, and data, and its "chat rooms" about company stocks—and rumor-mongering online traders—was virtually unknown only a decade ago. Now, every company must consider the effectiveness of its website, at the minimum. There has also been a floodtide of new business publications, as well as a beefed-up Wall Street Journal, and a new national daily, Investor’s Business Daily. Many major daily papers have expanded their business coverage. One could contend, with just a little hyperbole, that it is difficult to live in any major city in America and not be aware of the trading range of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Public companies today address a radically larger, and in many ways a better-informed, press corps than ever before. One could even argue that the phenomenon of the "corporate crisis" is as much fueled by the avalanche of media coverage as by bona fide corporate misdeeds. A generation ago, would accounting scandals have attracted nearly the attention they receive today or have elicited calls for systemic reforms? The same might be said for the perhaps quixotic campaign of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to reform brokerage analyst research. Such research has been compromised for decades, some would say ever since brokerage houses could both underwrite securities and then advise investors to buy them. Why the reforms now? There was, after all, a prolonged and ugly bear market after the 1960s boom years on Wall Street, but no reforms or even talk of a regulatory shake-up. To be sure, the transgressions of the 1990s seemed to epitomize all that was wrong with Wall Street, and on a grander scale than ever before. But surely, media coverage played a role in the actions of Spitzer and the SEC. In addition, Wall Street and corporate America have been pressed by other tectonic shifts in the economic and business scenes, which have been building for years. These include the following factors, notably: · The number and size of mutual funds have exploded in the last two decades, representing an enormous financial stake for many American households—and that much more reason for legislators to scrutinize Wall Street and push regulators to be more aggressive. Moreover, a generation or two ago, pension funds hewed closely to bonds, but they now invest heavily in equities as well, while millions of Americans hold equities in 401(k) plans. A few brave foundations, declaring themselves "permanent investors," even went so far in the late 1990s as to invest only in equities, which historically have outperformed bonds.
Consequently, how the enormous baby boom population of America—those born after World War II through 1968—will fare in retirement is tied to Wall Street, a daunting thought. One can guess that in the years ahead, the intertwined fortunes of stocks and wanna-be retirees will lead to a gathering level of interest and concern about Wall Street, corporate governance, and accounting standards, as has already begun. · Like so many other business sectors, Wall Street has been globalized during the past twenty years. Many foreign corporations now seek listing on U.S. exchanges, and many foreign companies often wish to buy U.S. companies. Oftentimes, such entities will have to learn to comply with the increasingly rigorous U.S. regulatory mandates and accounting standards. · Though recently cooling, the last decade saw an unprecedented upsurge in mergers of public companies, a trend one can expect to revive a bit when economic conditions allow—although the M&A salad days may be over for good: Too many mergers have not panned out, a fact that will force public companies to concentrate on generating returns for shareholders through improved operations, organic profits, or even share buybacks. · New funding mechanisms have emerged, including much more sophisticated financing for mergers and acquisitions (which helped the M&A boom of the 1990s), and more recently, private investments in public equity, or PIPEs. · Wall Street has become increasingly litigious, with seemingly every stock plunge or accounting scandal bringing an onslaught of lawsuits. · Proxy wars are likely to become more common, due to ever more forceful shareholder activism. Mergers or expansion campaigns that appear to be empire building and not in the interests of shareholders are more likely to be challenged. Given all of the above developments, I have selected a retinue of investor relations or Wall Street professionals to present their expert opinions on the current status of investor relations, or IR.
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