Because of the destructive nature of activism, I recommend taking on activists in only two scenarios: when the CEO is the founder of the company, or if the company’s very survival is at stake.
Oil-giant Chevron has been battling with activists and lawyers for several years over environmental damage in the Ecuadorean Amazon. Recently, the corporation has been fighting back against a $9.5 billion judgment related to the pollution claims.
Chevron decided to pursue a scorched-earth campaign against the plaintiffs’ attorneys and their allies, and has succeeded not only in blocking the collection of the verdict, but also in gaining permission to sue a prominent law firm for its role in the litigation. Chevron appears vindicated in its claims of corruption and fraud surrounding the activist campaign and associated litigation.
So I would like to add a third scenario where a corporate counter-campaign of litigation and retaliation is recommended: when your company is number three or higher on the Fortune 500 list, with over $230 billion in revenues and annual earnings north of $26 billion.
Otherwise, don’t try this at home.