If ever actions spoke louder than words, a change in Chase Manhattan Corp.'s bylaws signals that investor Michael Price is seen as more of a threat than the money-center has been willing to admit.
Since Mr. Price took a 6.1% stake in the bank through Heine Securities last month, Chase management has pointedly refused to acknowledge his claims that the company would be better off sold in parts or as a whole.
But earlier this month the bank hired "cost-cutting" guru Chandrika Tandon, and on Friday it eliminated the ability of shareholders with 25% of the common stock to call special meetings.
The new measure is in addition to a poison pill provision.
"It is pretty clear they did it to place more hurdles in front of any potential unfriendly activity," said Diane Glossman, a money-center analyst with Salomon Brothers. "This has been a very common defensive action taken by industrial companies over the last 10 years. Banks have been slower to take such action" because of the dearth of hostile activity in their industry.
Mr. Price would not comment on Chase's most recent action.
Most observers had given Mr. Price a slim chance to overturn Chase, the sixth largest bank in the country, as he did earlier this year with Michigan National Corp., a $9 billion asset bank in the Midwest, which was purchased by National Australia Bank.
But analysts said Chase's shareholder-unfriendly bylaw could raise red flags and cause some investors to move to Mr. Price's side.
And if the latest move is any indicator, Mr. Price may already be winning enough investor coverts to cause Chase management concern.