The conservative Young Americans for Freedom Inc. would like to save America's big businesses from what the group calls "their own shortsightedness"--and it wants to use stockholders' resolutions to do it.
To gain leverage--or at least access to annual corporate meetings--the Sterling, Va.-based national conservative group has purchased 10 shares each of Exxon Corp., Gulf Oil Corp., International Business Machines and PepsiCo Inc.
Over the next few weeks, the YAF will present its resolutions at four annual meetings. One proposal demands that Gulf pull out of Angola. Another tells IBM, Exxon and PepsiCo to stop dealing with countries that use prisoner or slave labor.
Still another resolution that Young Americans has proposed to all four multinationals would limit the corporations' choice of sites for annual meetings to states that have called for a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget.
Admitting that the group's chances of getting the resolutions passed are nil, Young Americans' projects director Mike Boos, 24, says the idea is to use annual meetings as an opportunity for the YAF to air its views: that communists aim to strangle the free enterprise system, and that deficit spending by the federal government may accomplish the same result.
All four firms have called the Young Americans' resolutions irrelevant to their day-to-day operations and have gone to great lengths, so far unsuccessfully, to keep the proposals off their proxies and Young Americans members in their seats at their annual meetings.
What's more, the Young Americans for Freedom aren't alone. Last year, stockholders introduced 972 resolutions to 358 companies on issues ranging from corporate policies to U.S. foreign policy. SEC officials estimate the number of resolutions introduced in 1983 will be close to last year's record.
The New Right has been playing the proxy circuit for years. But this year, the conservatives' lobbying effort has become better organized, observers say. Young Americans are a part of an emerging conservative network that is determined to air New Right issues at 20 annual meetings this year. Most of these proposals were drafted by two men--Andrew W. Duncan and Carl Olson. Over the years, Duncan has introduced hunderds of resolutions, many of them aimed at getting corporations to stop giving money to schools that prohibit military and CIA recruitment on their campuses.
Olson, an accountant and YAF member, wrote the resolutions the group is introducing this year and, in an attempt to set up a network, made their text available to anyone willing to introduce them.
Thomas Phillips, Washington-area newsletter publisher, has introduced Olson's resolutions for discussion at Minneapolis-based Control Data Corp.'s annual meeting.
Olson, 38, who introduced his first stockholder's resolution in 1976 at an Occidental Petroleum Co. meeting, estimates the firms he targeted have spent at least $500,000 to keep his resolutions off their proxies.
So far this year, Young Americans has been successful in keeping its proposals on proxy statements. Shareholders resolutions submitted by the YAF have been challenged before the Securities and Exchange Commission three times, but in each case the SEC staff said there were no legal grounds to keep them off the proxies.
"The [SEC] has been very liberal in interpretations of the statutes," said William Bowman, Gulf's attorney and assistant secretary, who says he tried to immobilize the YAF proposals with all the legal red tape he could muster.