This proxy season the Harvard Corporation seems to have taken the role of a rubber stamp, accepting all the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR).
In the last three weeks the Corporation has voted in favor of shareholder resolutions calling on the Timken Company to withdraw from South Africa, urging Phillips Petroleum to implement the Sullivan Principles and requesting that Exxon not expand into uranium mining in South Africa--all on the recommendation of the ACSR.
But while the Corporation has endorsed these progressive resolutions, it has limited its call for reform of corporate practices in South Africa by following the ACSR's recommendation not to initiate shareholder resolutions.
So although the Corporation called on the Timken Corporation to withdraw from South Africa because it refused to provide information on its practices there, it has not asked 12 other recalcitrant companies to withdraw because of its policy against initiating shareholder resolutions.
The Corporation also took the ACSR's advice by requesting that Bristol Myers Corporation change certain aspects of its policy of selling infant formula in developing nations.
In other proxy action the Corporation abstained on a resolution that would limit Standard Oil's and Mobil's sales to South Africa and voted against a resolution requiring Caterpillar Tractor Company to establish a special committee to review its practices in Sought Africa--as the ACSR suggested.
Given the identical decisions of the ACSR and Corporation, some members of the Undergraduate Committee on Harvard Shareholder Responsibility contend the ACSR, not the Corporation, is the rubber stamp.
But no matter who controls the stamp, the near perfect record of the ACSR seems to make the Corporation's decisions on the final proxies May 7 entirely predictable.