Baldwin reintroduces bill to crack down on hedge funds

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Glen Moberg

Wisconsin Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has reintroduced legislation to crack down on activist hedge funds.

The Brokaw Act is named after the central Wisconsin Village of Brokaw, which effectively went bankrupt after Starboard Value, a New York hedge fund, acquired the Wausau Paper company. The action preceded the closure of the company’s Brokaw mill in 2012, which left about 450 people unemployed.

"Everyone lost their jobs," Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, said. "The community of Brokaw became insolvent in large part because of upgrades to its infrastructure for the paper mill, and when it closed, they were left with the debt, and no major employer still left in town."

The Brokaw Act would give companies more time to react when hedge funds try to take them over.

The regulations would shorten the 10-day disclosure window for takeover attempts to four days. They would protect businesses from what Baldwin calls "hedge fund wolf packs," by identifying funds that are working together to acquire a company. They would require derivative disclosure to prevent investors from profiting by secretly voting against the company's interests.

"They will not prevent any activist (hedge fund) from launching an activist campaign, but they will give early warning and additional transparency so we know that that's happening in a timely manner," Baldwin said.

Baldwin first introduced the bill in 2016, but the measure stalled. The newly reworked legislation now has bipartisan support, and is cosponsored by Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia.

Baldwin said the measure is also attracting support from corporations, including "large companies that care about good corporate governance."

"Home Depot announced their support quite recently," Baldwin said.

The Village of Brokaw is in the process of dissolving into the surrounding Village of Maine.

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