The Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility enters its second spring proxy season this month with 25 proxy resolutions on its agenda. The ACSR will make recommendations on all the proxy issues to the Corporation Sub-committee on Shareholder Responsibility, which then decides how to vote Harvard's stock.
It is safe to say that none of these resolutions will get the support of a majority of stockholders in the corporations involved. If a resolution gets as much as 3 per cent support, however, it can be filed again the next year, while if it gets less than 3 per cent, the filer has to wait three years before introducing it again. The people filing these resolutions are trying only to apply public pressure to corporations, because they realize that the vast majority of shareholders are completely unaware of proxy resolutions and will not vote. So being able to re-introduce resolutions year after year is important.
Therefore, although Harvard's stock amounts to less than one half of 1 per cent in each corporation whose proxy resolution it will consider this spring, its vote carries considerable weight--it often represents 20 or 30 per cent of the necessary 3 per cent figure.
Almost all this spring's resolutions fall into four major categories--Africa, employment, energy and the environment, and employment, political contributions. The major resolutions follow in that order.
The United Church of Christ--like all other groups filing Africa resolutions, a member of the Church Project on United States Investments in South Africa--has filed a resolution asking Gulf Oil to publish information on its operations in Angola. This is the issue that led to President Bok's establishment of the ACSR in 1972. Angola is a colony of the Portuguese government where Portugal consistently uses military force to quell black nationalists' movements for independence. Gulf operates in Angola with the approval of the Portuguese government and is in fact a major supplier of oil to Portugal--so critics charge that Gulf is contributing to the Portuguese suppression of the Angolan people.
In the spring of 1972, Harvard's Pan-African Liberation Conference occupied Mass Hall, demanding that Harvard sell its stock in Gulf. As it turned out, Harvard did not sell and the students left Mass Hall, but Bok did set up the ACSR that spring.
The resolution calls on Gulf to reveal in its in-house magazine the details of its Angolan oil operation and its contract with Portugal.
A resolution by the United Methodist Church calls on Texaco to discontinue all its Angolan operations that pay concessions to the Portuguese government.
A resolution by the United Presbyterian Church asks General Electric to set up a committee to review its activities in South Africa--its employment practices and how much money the apartheid government gets from GE--and to report them to the stockholders.
The Protestant Episcopal Church has filed an identical South Africa review committee resolution with IBM.
A resolution by the United Presbyterian Church calls on Union Carbide to provide its stockholders with a full report detailing its operations in South Africa--financial and factual information, data on equal employment and working conditions in South Africa, and information on Union Carbide's relationship with the South African government.
This and the other resolutions on South Africa are all basically in objection to the nation's apartheid system, which denies black Africans the right to vote and to bargain collectively. Blacks in South Africa must live in racially segregated areas and cannot supervise white workers. They live on the 13 per cent of South Africa's land that the government has assigned them, while whites, who make up 18 percent of the nation's population, live on the other 87 per cent.
The Protestant Episcopal Church has filed a resolution with Phillips Petroleum, asking it to remove all its operations under concession to the South African government from Namibia.
Namibia is a section of southwest Africa that the United Nations general assembly took out of South Africa's control in 1966. A U.N. council is supposed to be ruling Namibia, but South Africa in fact continues to control it, ignoring the U.N. order. In response to a request from the U.S., the U.S. government has warned U.S. corporations not to expect any protection for their Namibian operations if there is a revolution.
The American Baptist Home Mission Societies have filed an identical resolution with Getty Oil, calling on it to remove all its operations from Namibia.