• U.S.

Business: Rockefeller v. Stewart

4 minute read
TIME

“I did not, personally, receive any of these bonds. . . . I never had anything to do with the distribution of any bonds. . . . I don’t know anything about it.”— Chairman Robert W. Stewart of the board of directors of the Standard Oil Co. of Indiana, in the course of testimony to the Senate Committee on Public Lands, last February. The Committee had asked him what he knew about the profits of the Continental Trading Co., which were converted into Liberty Bonds after a deal which Col. Stewart and Harry Ford Sinclair guaranteed in 1921.

“In view of the fact that the testimony in the Sinclair case is now in … I know about the disposition of $759,500 of these bonds. . . . Parts of the profits of these [Continental Trading Co.] contracts were going to be handed to me. . . . I decided to trustee any profits that came to me. . . . With the last of the deliveries the bonds amounted to $759,500. … 7 was simply the conduit. I never received these bonds.”—Col. Robert W. Stewart to the Senate Committee on Public Lands, on April 24, answering the same question that was asked him in February.

“Your recent testimony before the Senate Committee leaves me no alternative other than to ask you to make good the promise you voluntarily gave me some weeks ago, that you would resign at my request. That request I now make.”— John D. Rockefeller Jr., controller of 15% of the stock of the Standard Oil Co. of Indiana, in a letter to Board Chairman Stewart on April 27.

“. . . A special meeting of the— stockholders of the Standard Oil Company of Indiana . . . to express themselves in regard to your suggested resignation. If this plan is to be followed, I have no doubt hat you will have the thirty-day call issued at once and that you will wish to write me that this has been done.”—Stockholder Rockefeller to Board Chairman Stewart, April 30.

“/ have lost confidence in Colonel Stewart’s leadership.”—Mr. Rockefeller to the public, last week, when he made public his April letters to Col. Stewart.

“. . . That exponent and defender of high standards in business.”—Owen D. Young, introducing John D; Rockefeller Jr. at a banquet of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, in Washington last week after publication of the Rockefeller-Stewart correspondence.

“The chamber . . . maintains that stockholders of corporations owe it to themselves and to the Government and to the profession of business publicly to repudiate those who misrepresent them. Such stockholders cannot accept the profits flowing from corruption and escape the moral stigma which inheres in such profits. Neither can they permit those who act for them to profit personally through corrupt corporate transactions or shield others who do.”—The U. S. Chamber of Commerce in a resolution passed last week.*

The morning the Rockefeller-Stewart correspondence was published, a newspaper reporter boarded the 20th Century Limited, westbound, when it stopped at Englewood, Chicago suburb. The reporter went into the dining car and approached a brawny gentleman who sat there eating breakfast.

Reporter: “Col. Stewart?”

Stewart: “Who are you?”

Reporter: “I am a reporter.”

Stewart: “Then get away from me!”

Reporter: “But, Colonel, I have been trying all night to get in touch with you to ask you about—”

Stewart: “I don’t care. I won’t talk to you. I won’t have anything to do with you. Get away, I tell you!”

Reporter: “Your Chicago office said last night that you would talk today.”

Stewart: “That’s a lie! . . .”

At the terminal in Chicago, a platoon of newsgatherers surrounded Col. Stewart as he alighted. He was scowling, carrying a heavy cane.

Stewart: “Get t’hell away from me!”

Chorus: “Have you a statement to make?”

Stewart: “Nothing to say. I don’t want to say a thing.”

Chorus: “Will you call a meeting of the Standard Oil board?”

Stewart: “Can’t you understand? I don’t want to say a thing!”

Later in the day, a statement issued from the Stewart office, which is in the South Michigan Avenue building where all the Indiana Standard directors have their offices. Said Board Chairman Stewart : “Any communication from any stockholder is entitled to and shall receive from me the most careful consideration. . . .

“No meeting of stockholders or directors is contemplated.”

The Springfield, Mass., Republican, Bible of conservative Republicanism, fearing that other Indiana Standard stockholders might not support Stockholder Rockefeller in ousting Col. Stewart, last week cried out in an editorial:

“You stockholders fattening on illicit profits! You organizers of robbery incorporated! You millionaire liars and perjurers! You arrogant men of power! If you would but count the cost and remember there’s a day of reckoning.”

*For further doings of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce last week, see p. 44.

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