Most hedge funds are drastically underperforming the markets this year. In fact, since 2004, the majority of hedge funds have underperformed the boarder markets, despite the huge bull market in stocks.Since most hedge funds get paid based on their returns for the year, managers who do not want to underperform often turn to shareholder activism as a way to increase shareholder value and ultimately boost their returns. Here at Stockpickr.com, we track many of the Latest Activist Situations for those interested in piggybacking these activist funds. We highlight a few of those situations here. First up is Top Ships ( TOPS), which is getting serious heat from QVT Financial. QVT believes that Top Ships' board and management may have breached their fiduciary duties, and the firm called for the company to make a "substantial change" to the composition of its board. Top Ships is an interesting dry-bulk shipper specializing as an international provider of crude and various petroleum products. With the Baltic Drybulk index at all-time highs and crude oil at record levels, if QVT Financial gets its way, Top Ships could move higher. Another name making the Latest Activist Situations list is MSC Software ( MSCS). In this case, New-York based hedge fund Elliott Associates is pushing the company to "consider exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale." The simulation software creator has been stuck in a brutal range of $11 to $14.80 per share over the past year. MSC Software has $148 million in cash and only $7 million in debt, and its first-quarter total revenue grew by 6%, led by 20% growth in Europe. MSC Software also has an additional catalyst coming up based on its new second-quarter launch of SimEnterprise and MD Solutions, an essential upgrade in various simulation projects.
In another battle, on Monday, Steel Partners offered to buy a 22% stake in Conseco ( CNO) by conducting a tender offer for the shares at $12.50 to $14 each. Steel Partners said that it believes "the board has been slow in carrying out a strategic review process and that the insurance group's return on equity needs to be improved." Next on the list is AutoNation ( AN). Billionaire hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert bought 1.8 million shares of AutoNation for an average price of $16.04 each. Lampert is also a large shareholder in AutoZone ( AZO). For more activist ideas, including Motorola ( MOT) and Applera-Applied Biosystems Group ( ABI), please check out the Latest Activist Situations, a Stockpickr portfolio that tracks the latest activist situations recorded by the StreetInsider.com 13D Tracker. Also, here are the latest activist filings from Barron's.