Activist investors went after companies at a record pace in 2015 -- and won

Activist investors are pushing for a lot more money to be returned to shareholders.

And they’re winning.

According to data from FactSet’s Andrew Birstingl, the number of activist investor attempts to encourage buybacks and dividends reached an all-time high last year.

“In 2015, there were 70 activist campaigns in which a dissident objective was to return cash via dividends and/or buybacks,” said Birstingl in a note Wednesday. “This was a 37% increase from the number in 2014 (51 campaigns), and represented the highest total since FactSet began tracking the data in 2005.”

Of these 70 campaigns, 31 were successful, which Birstingl notes was also a record dating back to 2005.

2015 had a number of notable activist encounters such as Carl Icahn eventually getting insurance giant AIG to break up its businesses and the ongoing drama between Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and activists.

So far in 2016, however, these activities are on a much slower pace as there have been just seven pushes from activists for shareholder returns of capital and only one has been successful.

NOW WATCH: We did a blind taste test of popular french fries — the winner was clear

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at