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Companies used to fear that activist investors would pressure them to sell. Now they fear activist pressure to not buy.

Driving the news: Bill Ackman is urging United Technologies to scrap its mega-merger with Raytheon.

  • Ackman's Pershing Square Capital has less than a 1% stake in UTX, valued at around $745 million. Twenty-two other outside investors hold larger positions.
  • But he has one of Wall Street's loudest megaphones, and is threatening to publicly oppose the deal, per a memo obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

More from the memo:

It "makes no sense to us why you would consider a stock acquisition using today's massively undervalued UTC common stock to buy a large business of inferior quality to the company's existing businesses, and for which we cannot comprehend the strategic logic."

Carl Icahn is suing Occidental Petroleum, in which he reportedly built a position worth north of $1 billion, over its proposed purchase of Anadarko.

  • Icahn thinks the deal is overpriced, with Occidental succumbing to pricing pressure from earlier Anadarko bidder Chevron. Moreover, he thinks that financing terms given to Warren Buffett were far too generous.
  • He also argues Occidental would be better off selling itself than buying Anadarko, saying the deal's debt-laden math can only work (possibly) if oil prices rise and don't fall for years.
  • But he's not threatening to vote against the deal, as Ackman is with UTX/Raytheon, because Occidental structured its offer in a way that sidesteps the need for a shareholder vote. So add that to the list of things that bother Icahn.

The bottom line: Ackman and Icahn have history as antagonistic rivals. But they often swim in similar strategic directions.

Go deeper: United Technologies, Raytheon reach aero-space mega-merger

Go deeper

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Judge temporarily blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors nationwide.

Why it matters: It's the latest setback in the Biden administration's rollout of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Federal judges in two states temporarily barred the administration from enforcing mandates for millions of workers last week.

Biden threatens Putin

Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a video call that lasted for just over two hours on Tuesday, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine the U.S. will impose unprecedented sanctions and provide additional weaponry to the Ukrainians, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Why it matters: Russia's military activity on the border with Ukraine has triggered alarms from the U.S. and its European allies of a potential large-scale Russian invasion in early 2022. Sullivan said Biden made clear to Putin that, "things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now."