WASHINGTON -- Corporate raider T. Boone Pickens declared war Tuesday on big business mismanagement and other managerial abuses and invited 47 million American stockholders to join his battle by becoming members of a new lobbying organization.
'The one thing I want to get out into the open is that stockholders are owners and management are employees,' Pickens said, announcing the formation of United Shareholders Association.
Pickens, 58, is chairman of Mesa Petroleum Co. but is widely known as a Texas wheeler-dealer and promoter of stockholder rights. He has lead highly profitable takeover battles against Gulf, Phillips, Unocal and other oil companies.
USA will hire academics to study the corporate proxy, or election, process and hire congressional lobbyists to promote stockholder rights.
'We intend to make USA the most effective citizens' lobby in America,' Pickens said at a news conference.
The management of most Fortune 500 firms are more interested in preserving their benefits and salaries than in efficient management or representing shareholders, he said.
'The only real stake many managers have is their jobs. They certainly do not own much stock,' he said.
'We could see another recession in 1987 or 1988 ... we might be able to head one off if wecan restore competitiveness and accountability,' Pickens said.
The 200 members of the Business Roundtable, who are chief executive officers of their companies, own less than 0.3 percent of the stock of their firms, Pickens said.
USA will ask the Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress to hold hearings on the one-share, one-vote issue.
'The only place in America where you vote, and it's not confidential, is corporate America,' Pickens said. 'I don't like to sign a proxy card that says I don't like you, and then send it to you.
'More than 180 major corporations have disenfranchised shareholders by adopting some form of unequal voting rights ... representing one of the most blatant management entrenchment measures yet devised.'
USA intends to recruit 500,000 members in two years and organize local committees nationwide -- especially in key presidential campaign states, he said.
The membership fee is $50 and Pickens said he put up $1.3 million to get USA going. He said USA ultimately must support itself.