“I don’t see how you could have done such a thing to me” Judge Lovett chided
in his bewilderment. “I unde
rstand these things so much better than
you do” retorted Harriman, in a tone such as he might have used to a small boy.
Well, I was not willing to let Mr. Harriman be the judge of right and wrong fromme. There were times during his life, when I was sitting on the boards of hisroads, where I opposed underwriting fees because I felt they were too high. As adirector I believed my obligation of trusteeship ran to the stockholders, and not toMr. Harriman, nor the City Bank. I have in mind recollections of occasions when itwas pointed out to me, in a hurt tone, that the City Bank was sharing in thoseunderwriting profits that I thought were too fat. I hope I do not sound mealy-mouthed now, because, actually, I am trying to throw light upon something thatwas built into my character. Words that were spoken solemnly to me through thebearded lips of my father, when I was small, seem to have filled little reservoirs of emotion that have controlled many of my decisions.
When Directors Don’t Direct
Now, it should be said that when a company is run by a strong, dominantexecutive, his board of directors usually is glad to vote for anything he wishes.Quite often, I suspect, directors have voted without troubling themselves toinquire as to the purpose behind some move they authorized. Indeed, I recollectan illuminating story Mr. Stillman once told me concerning the board of the NewYork Central, under the autocratic direction of Commodore Vanderbilt.There had been a leak of some information to the public, and Mr. Vanderbiltwas greatly irked by it. It was information that never had reached the board. Onedirector suggested, with something of a stutter, that the best way to stop furtherleakage was to elect the culprit to a place on the board; then he would not knowanything worth leaking. Well, Harriman did not always take his directors into hisconfidence either.