Proxy advisers support Ohio bank in battle with activist investor

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Wayne Savings Bancshares in Wooster, Ohio, received a big endorsement in its proxy battle with an activist investor.

The $454 million-asset company said in a press release Thursday that the shareholder advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Service and Glass Lewis are recommending that investors back its board candidates at this year's annual meeting.

Stilwell Group nominated Corissa Briglia, the firm's research director, to join Wayne Savings' board.

ISS concluded in its assessment that Stilwell had "not made a compelling case for board change,” Wayne Savings said in its release.

Wayne Savings recently disclosed that its first-quarter profit rose nearly 70% from a year earlier, to $965,000. The company said it spent $107,000 on expenses tied to the proxy battle. Excluding those expenses, return on equity would have topped 10% for the first time in the bank's 119-year history, CEO James VanSickle said.

Stilwell, which owns about 9.6% of Wayne Savings' stock, wants the company to consider selling.

Wayne’s annual meeting is set for April 20.

Stilwell failed narrowly to an effort last year to gain a board seat.

Wayne Savings in recent months has hired VanSickle as its permanent CEO and appointed a more supportive investor, Brian Hopkins of Ancora Capital, to its board. Ancora owns about 6% of the company's stock.

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