The Harvard Corporation doesn't know it, but the Treasurer's office has voted Harvard's shares with management in the Gulf Oil proxy battle.
Early this week, Mayo A. Shattuck '48, deputy treasurer of the College, followed management's recommendations and voted Harvard's proxies against four resolutions proposed by the Gulf Angola Project. The Project opposes Gulf's involvement in colonial Portuguese Africa, particularly Angola.
With 671,187 shares worth $15,437,301, Harvard is the largest university shareholder in Gulf, owning one quarter of one per cent of the company.
At its meeting last Monday, the Corporation briefly discussed the Gulf question but reached no decision. George F. Bennett '33, treasurer of the College, is out of the country and did not attend.
"We were at a little disadvantage because we weren't sure what Mr. Bennett had already done," Hugh Calkins '43. Fellow of the Corporation, said yesterday. "We didn't know if he had taken any action with respect to it. Essentially it was too late for us to consider."
Agreeing with Calkins, John Morton Blum '43. Fellow of the Corporation, said, "In this instance there was a great deal of innocence about what was pending until after the fact. By the time we found out about it, it was too late to do anything."
Ship in the Night
"It was a ship that passed in the night," Blum said.
While the Corporation has final authority in investment decisions, such powers are ordinarily delegated to the Treasurer's office. Last year, Campaign GM-sponsored by the Project on Corporate Responsibility, which also backs the Gulf. Angola Project-stirred a widespread controversy. In response, the Corporation considered the issue and decided to vote its proxies for the General Motors management.
At it's next meeting on May 3, the Corporation will discuss the three resolutions that Campaign GM has proposed this year.
Because of organizational problems, the Gulf Angola Project did not mail proxy solicitations to college presidents until early this month. The Gulfannual shareholders' meeting will be held on Tuesday in Atlanta, Ga.
Steven A. Bookshester, a coordinator of the Project, says he wrote a letter to President Pusey on March 31 and several days later received a reply from William Bentinck-Smith '37, assistant to the President, saying the matter would be considered.
Shattuck said he did not see the letter. Bentinck-Smith could not be reached for comment.
In making the decision, Shattuck said, he read only the Gulf proxy statement. As required by law, the Gulf management lists the Gulf Angola Project's four resolutions in the statement. It then explains why it favors voting them down.
The four resolutions would create a committee to study Gulf's involvement in Portuguese Africa; require disclosure of Gulf's charitable gifts; expand the Board of Directors to increase the influence of "various interests and constituencies affected by the activities of the Corporation"; and forbid Gulf to maintain investments in colonial areas.
The Gulf Angola Project has issued a statement explaining why it supports these resolutions. Shattuck said he has not seen this statement.
Discussing his reasons for supporting the management position, Shattuck said, "Having weighed the arguments presented to me, I don't believe Gulf is investing in any area in which the United States does not recognize the existing government. I don't feel the way to change national policy is to tell a corporation it cannot do business in a country that our government recognizes."
"In terms of the colonial-rule bit, it's pretty hard for someone voting a proxy to second-guess the United States as to whether that's a nation worth having diplomatic relations with," Shattuck said. "I find it easier to believe someone who agrees with the United States government than someone who opposes it."
Shattuck said he had not discussed the issue with any Corporation Fellows. "There's no reason for me to have," he said. "Traditionally the Treasurer has been held responsible for voting of proxies No one ever asked about it until last year. When the Treasurer isn't here to make the decision, the authority rests with his delegated deputy."