Carl Icahn 2011 Agrees with Marc Andreessen 2014

According to Carl Icahn, venture capital board members are fine for Carl Icahn in 2011 but not fine for eBay in 2014.

When Carl Icahn’s board nominees’ business activities created conflicts, Mr. Icahn has argued forcefully that a board should and could manage those conflicts if his nominees were elected by shareholders.

Contrary to Mr. Icahn’s theory today – that a venture capital director cannot be “trusted to objectively advise” a board if he or she has potential conflicts – Mr. Icahn, in 2011, provided the following information to shareholders of another company, Forest Laboratories, in response to questions raised about whether his director nominees were conflicted:

In defense of his own nominees: “Potential conflicts of interest are by no means rare, though, and seem to be especially frequent among technology and biotech companies.  Each of those fields tends to be intensely technical by nature, and corporations involved in those areas often find that it is useful to have a board of directors with significant experience in those areas, which means that at least minor conflicts of interest often arise.  In addition, these firms are frequently funded by venture capital; the venture capital firms invariably put their own directors on the boards; and those directors or their firms often have direct and material conflicts of interest because they usually fund/control potentially competitive corporations as well.” (1)

On his own nominees’ potential conflicts: “The biopharma industry has standard practices on how to deal with potential director conflicts regarding business development opportunities.  Directors simply recuse themselves in the event of a vote or decision that may present a conflict.  The benefit of drawing upon knowledge and experience from shared, collective service on multiple biopharma boards heavily outweighs the potential conflict in these rare situations which are easily managed through recusal.” (2)

Mr. Icahn also approved walling off directors as a sufficient way to address a conflict: “A general set of ‘best practices’ has evolved for dealing with [conflicts of interest],” and can “be dealt with by the methods used by thousands of other public and private corporations” and handled “with professionalism and very little fuss and bother… Given the ubiquity of such conflicts, as well as similar situations in which directors or senior management might have conflicting interests, a general set of ‘best practices’ has evolved for dealing with them. The first, and perhaps most important measure is that the existence of the potential conflict needs to be disclosed by the director to the board.  Here, of course, that has already been done. Second, the directors should determine, on a case by case basis, whether they should wall themselves off from conflicted directors when making a decision with respect to a conflicted transaction.” (1)

“To the extent these potential conflicts of interest actually exist, they are routine matters with which corporate boards of directors normally deal and pose no significant issues.” (1)

“An appropriate conflicts and recusal policy similarly could ameliorate any information-sharing concerns that might theoretically arise from interlocking board members.” (1)

Why does Carl Icahn in 2014 think that Carl Icahn in 2011 was so obviously and blatantly engaged in terrible corporate governance?

Sources:

(1) Mr. Icahn and his affiliates filed two opinions of legal counsel as supporting proxy materials in his proxy fight for Forest Laboratories:

Letter from Ashby & Geddes, Counsel to Icahn Capital LP, 8/7/2011
http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/38074/000092847511000188/frxdfan14a081111.txt

Letter from Arnold & Porter LLP, Antitrust Counsel to Icahn Capital LP, 8/7/2011
http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/38074/000092847511000179/frxdfan14a080811ap.txt

2) Open Letter from the Icahn Group to Forest Laboratories Shareholders, 4/7/ 2011
http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/38074/000092847511000174/frxdfan14a080811.txt

Important Additional Information
eBay Inc., its directors and certain of its executive officers are participants in the solicitation of proxies from stockholders in connection with eBay’s 2014 Annual Meeting of Stockholders.  eBay intends to file a proxy statement and WHITE proxy card with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) in connection with such solicitation.  EBAY STOCKHOLDERS ARE STRONGLY ENCOURAGED TO READ ANY SUCH PROXY STATEMENT (INCLUDING ANY AMENDMENTS AND SUPPLEMENTS) AND ACCOMPANYING WHITE PROXY CARD WHEN THEY BECOME AVAILABLE AS THEY WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION.

Information regarding the names of eBay’s directors and executive officers and their respective interests in eBay by security holdings or otherwise is set forth in eBay’s proxy statement for the 2013 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, filed with the SEC on March 18, 2013.  To the extent holdings of such participants in eBay’s securities have changed since the amounts described in the 2013 proxy statement, such changes have been reflected on Initial Statements of Beneficial Ownership on Form 3 or Statements of Change in Ownership on Form 4 filed with the SEC. Additional information can also be found in eBay’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013, filed with the SEC on January 31, 2014.  

These documents, including any proxy statement (and amendments or supplements thereto) and other documents filed by eBay with the SEC, are available for no charge at the SEC’s website at http://www.sec.gov and at eBay’s investor relations website at http://investor.ebayinc.com.  Copies may also be obtained by contacting eBay Investor Relations by mail at 2065 Hamilton Avenue, San Jose, California 95125 or by telephone at 866-696-3229.

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