There is hope for the effort, though, because retail investors own roughly 44% of all outstanding stock. This means that if even half of those holding shares can get involved in proxy activities, they would be a force with which to be reckoned.
Another problem Icahn will face, as he continues to try to get new members of any corporate board, getting investors excited enough to spend time to vote their shares with him. The effort needs to result in something more concrete and tangible where people can vote their shares with him and then see results of their efforts.
His recent efforts with Apple pushed for things that are considered "financial engineering" -- which does provide the needed short-term gratification to begin to build a following. While a stock split at Apple is a real result from the efforts, these are the easier things to pursue. If he wants this trend to catch on with a broader investor base, he needs to push for changes that positively impact the public from both a shareholder and customer prospective.
If activist investing can move past the negative stigma associated with the term, a recent study suggests that shareholder activism as a whole produces both short- and long-term benefits for shareholders. Icahn continues to say his main driver in this effort is to make positive changes in the corporate world. This assertion is always greeted with rolling eyes by the investing community.
However, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt to see if he can lead efforts that result in positive changes at companies. I think this is something that could have a real positive impact going forward.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.