Letter to the Editor: Response to ‘Student activists protest outside Schapiro’s house’

It seems clear that the moral compass of Northwestern trustees is firmly fixed on the bottom line. They put return on investment ahead of responsibility to all of NU’s stakeholders by refusing Morty Schapiro’s request to divest endowment funds from coal companies and ignoring students’ pleas to halt investment in private prison firms and security contractors who deny basic human rights to Palestine’s citizens. Protests get attention, but don’t always deliver results.

Here’s an another option. You know the adage: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Take that a step further. If you can’t beat them, own them, or at least a few shares of them.  Why not buy stock in the companies targeted by your protests? Then you can fight them from within. Just one share of stock gives you access to vital information that publicly held firms must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This includes proxy statements disclosing the pay, perks and powers of top executives, plus annual reports, 10-K statements and other documents revealing key facts about these companies, including political donations and lobbying expenses.

You can confront top management at annual shareholders meetings. This is as close to democracy as corporate governance gets. Stockholders can ask questions, raise complaints and issue resolutions that change the way a company does business. Citigroup shareholders put a cap on how much the CEO and other top execs can earn from incentive compensation. The more shares you own, the more power you have. But just one share gets you in the door.

Since your funds are limited, pick your targets carefully. A good target for the Unshackle NU movement is the Corrections Corporation of America, our nation’s largest private prison profiteer. It runs 65 correctional & detention facilities in 19 states and Washington, D.C. Corrections Corporation of America is listed on the New York Stock Exchange as CXW. Big institutional investors own most of the of shares, but some can be purchased by the general public. This is your chance to help capitalism work for social good, instead of against it. Lead the way, Wildcats.

Dick Reif, Medill ’64