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ISS backs Boaz Weinstein's nominees at four BlackRock funds

Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • ISS said BlackRock closed-end fund investors should support some of Saba Capital’s nominees in two further campaigns to gain board representation, as the activist seeks to oust incumbent directors at the under-valued funds.
  • Boaz Weinstein’s Saba is mounting campaigns at 10 BlackRock funds to get board representation or oust BlackRock as fund manager.
  • ISS earlier this week also partially backed Saba’s case for change at four other funds but did not support Saba’s efforts to replace BlackRock as fund manager.

Dissident Boaz Weinstein's Saba Capital picked up support in its campaign for change at some BlackRock closed-end funds from proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services.

Saba has mounted a campaign to elect its own director nominees to the boards of 10 BlackRock closed-end funds, accusing the investing giant of mismanagement as the funds trade at a discount to their net asset value, or NAV.

ISS, in reports viewed by CNBC, said shareholders should back some of Saba's board nominees at two of those funds: BlackRock Innovation and Growth Term Trust as well as BlackRock ESG Capital Allocation Term Trust. The proxy advisor pointed to severe underperformance and shareholder disenfranchisement at those two funds as two of the reasons why it was recommending a board refreshment.

Those two funds mark Saba’s largest positions within the 10 campaigns. ISS also pointed to Saba's management of its Capital Income and Opportunities Fund, saying Saba's track record as a manager showed it could narrow undervaluation and was not as concerning as BlackRock had suggested it was.

ISS recommended that BIGZ shareholders vote for Saba nominees Ilya Gurevich, Shavar Jeffries, David Locala and Athanassios Diplas, while ECAT shareholders should support Gurevich and Diplas.

"We are grateful to have received support from a leading proxy advisory firm against worst-of-all-worlds governance at BlackRock funds, which have destroyed value for millions of investors," Saba partner Paul Kazarian said in a statement.

The latest endorsement comes after ISS earlier this week issued mixed levels of support for Saba's campaigns at four other BlackRock funds. At two of the funds Saba is targeting, BSTZ and BFZ, the proxy advisor endorsed the activist's entire slate.

The proxy advisor also came out against Saba's efforts at several of the targeted funds to terminate BlackRock as the investment advisor and issued endorsements for several of the incumbent or management board nominees at other funds, including the re-election of the full slate of directors at BCAT, BNY, BMEZ and MPA.

In a release, BlackRock said it disagreed with ISS' latest findings and pointed to prior full endorsements from Glass Lewis.

R. Glenn Hubbard, who chairs Blackrock's closed end funds, while conceding ISS' endorsement of some of Saba's nominees, said the firm continued "to believe that our nominees have demonstrated time and time again that they are the right stewards to represent all shareholders."

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