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Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Protesters disrupt activist summit

Protesters disrupt hedge fund conference
Protesters disrupt hedge fund conference

Activist investors became targets themselves Monday when protesters briefly took over a conference focused on how to shake up companies.

About 20 protesters interrupted a lunchtime panel discussion at the 13D Monitor Active-Passive Investor Summit in New York, chanting slogans like "hedge fund billionaires, pay your fair share!"

The agitators walked around the stage with signs and shouted slogans demanding higher wages for workers at restaurants including McDonald's, Burger King and Darden-owned Olive Garden.

They called out well-known activist investors like Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management and Jeff Smith of Starboard Value, both slated to speak at the event later Monday, urging $15 an hour for low-level workers.

One sign read "Dignitiy at Darden," which Smith's Starboard Value is a major investor in. Ackman's Pershing Square was until recently a major Burger King investor.

"Bill Ackman, Jeff Smith, show us $15!" was briefly chanted.

"This is what democracy looks like!" they added later in the Crowne Plaza Times Square ballroom.

The protest was peaceful, and the activists left after about 15 minutes of chanting. An organizer took to the microphone at one point to warn that the police had been called, but the protesters left on their own accord.

Attendees were largely nonplussed, smiling and watching the unexpected disruption from their seats.

"Long live capitalism!" one conference attendee shouted in response. He cracked a big smile immediately after the comment.

The protests were organized by a nascent group called "Hedge Clippers" which has recently targeted Paul Tudor Jones, Paul Singer, Dan Loeb and others for what they call positions that hurt lower-income workers. The group released a new report Monday on hedge funds and the fast food industry.

The report focused on Ackman, Smith, Nelson Peltz, Edward Garden of Trian Partners, and Larry Robbins and their involvement in McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Darden.

"A handful of hedge fund activists use franchising to extract maximum profit from fast food workers and to keep wages as low as possible," it said.

Representatives for the activist managers named by the protesters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.