The WSJ has an article about HP hiring Goldman to "help the company defend itself against possible activist investors who could push for change at H-P". Said another way, the company is, apparently, "an attractive target for investor activism."
The term activist, of course, has a certain pejorative connotation. These are shareholders that want to interfere with management's prerogative and force change on the business. The implication of the article is that now that HP has hit a low point, sharks are swarming around and the board may need to defend itself.
But in fact, given the instability at the top of the company, the dramatic drop in share prices (by about 50% in the last year), and the questionable corporate strategies bantered around (getting out of the computer business), aren't all shareholders activists in the way its being used in the article? Don't all shareholders want stability, better management, and improved profitability? Yet somehow shareholders who want this are viewed negatively and branded with a pejorative term.
The article notes that a common response to "activist" shareholders is the adoption of a poison pill, which effectively insulates the company from a hostile takeover. Hopefully in this case, the tactic adopted by the board (upon the advice of Goldman Sachs) will not be a poison pill but a strategy designed to improve profitability and stability to HP. That strategy, more than any other, will likely deactivate those pesky activist shareholders.