Shareholder activism typically has been the preserve of Carl Icahn-style moguls or huge pension funds with enough resources to neutralize poison pills or force mergers.

Now, a small L.A. investment bank is getting into the fray.

B. Riley & Co. LLC, which provides research and investment banking services to small- and midcap companies, has launched a financial advisory service to help smaller institutional investors become more effective as corporate-governance activists.

"We feel strongly that in the next few years, because of the economy, shareholders are going to want to act more like owners of the business," said founder and Chairman Bryant Riley, who also runs a hedge fund and sits on several boards, giving him a perspective on both sides of the aisle.

Salomon Kamalodine, who is heading the new team, said: "We've been getting requests in recent months from formerly nonactivist institutional investors who are just tired.

"Activism is a high-cost strategy that doesn't always pay off, but we've been seeing a growing demand from shareholders who want to get involved."

But as you might expect in the financial world, nothing is simple.

Providing such advice could put the investment bank into a conflict of interest if it is approached for its corporate governance services targeting a company that is one of its investment banking clients.

Kamalodine said that in such an instance, B. Riley won't take on the new client. However, he added, there are circumstances where his firm might play a mediating role.

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