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Hering Schuppener recruits the head of the ISS voting rights advisor

Thomas von Oehsen

The qualified lawyer knows the pitfalls of investor support.

Cologne Hering Schuppener has hired another capital market expert for his advisory team. In April, Thomas von Oehsen moved as Managing Director to the Berlin location of the German communications consultancy, as was announced on Monday. Most recently, he was head of the Germany, Switzerland and Austria region at the US proxy adviser ISS.

“Thomas von Oehsen has an extremely valuable wealth of experience from which our listed clients can benefit,” commented Hering-Schuppener partner Alexander Geiser. “Especially in volatile times, it is crucial to optimally meet the expectations of the stakeholders.”

Voting advisors such as ISS or Glass Lewis support investors in the decision-making process for voting at general meetings of listed companies. They are often considered unpopular with managers, but their influence has increased significantly in recent years. With von Oehsen, Hering Schuppener now has an expert in this area who is to support customers in preparing for the growing influence of their shareholders.

“After having been a critical companion of listed companies for a long time in the sense of the voices entrusted to me, I am now looking forward to being an active designer to better align companies with their requirements,” explains von Oehsen. He sees a much more important role of corporate communication for large investors than in the past.

Von Oehsen told Handelsblatt that 15 years ago investors were often satisfied with having received sufficient information about the course of business. A lot has changed since then. “Investors are increasingly demanding a dialogue with the company management.” The management and increasingly also the supervisory board would have to prepare for an intensive dialogue with all relevant stakeholder groups, especially in view of increasing regulatory requirements and a possible economic downturn.

Preparation for activist investors

The care of shareholders is becoming increasingly relevant for many German groups. Like the previous general meetings, such as the German bank or the industrial group Thyssen-Krupp showed that the influence of so-called activist investors is growing. These often target management weaknesses in order to assert their own interests, right up to the division of entire groups.

“Companies must not wait until activist investors are at the door, but must proactively prepare for the dialogue,” explains von Oehsen, among other things by setting up and communicating a convincing corporate strategy.

According to Hering Schuppener, the corona crisis could also give activist investors a new boost. For example, do companies have to postpone their general meeting due to the virus, as is now happening at Deutsche Telekom, or does the share price suffer from the volatile situation, be it all the more important to take critical investors along with the management? Otherwise there is a risk of resentment among investors or even legal trouble.

From April, Hering Schuppeners will help von Oehsen to convincingly explain their strategies in the areas of sustainability and good corporate governance. The consulting business is no stranger to Oehsen, who studied law at the Free University of Berlin. Before joining ISS, he advised clients with his own consulting firm. The 47-year-old began his career in the automotive manufacturer’s financial services division Daimler.

More: The US exchange regulator wants to break the power of the voting right advisers.

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