Jesse M. Unruh
California state treasurer 1975-1987
In 1984, Jesse Unruh, as state treasurer and trustee of the California Public Employees' Retirement System and California State Teachers' Retirement System, was so outraged by the payment of "greenmail" by Texaco Inc. to the Bass brothers that he asked the nation's public pension funds to support a new shareholder organization to stand up against corporate management decisions that would financially hurt the funds. Mr. Unruh and several other representatives from public and Taft-Hartley funds helped form the Council of Institutional Investors in January 1985, with 22 public and union pension fund members controlling $100 billion in assets.
The council created a shareholders' bill of rights, establishing the principle that all shareholders have equal voting rights; demanding that corporations seek shareholder approval before paying greenmail or establishing poison pills or golden parachutes; and calling for a majority of outside directors to approve any extraordinary bonuses or other payments to corporate executives.
"I think he's the father of shareholder activism in this country," said Richard Koppes, former general counsel of CalPERS and now an attorney with Jones Day Revis & Pogue. "He clearly pushed CalPERS and CalSTRS to become active, and he's behind the whole CalPERS governance movement. He got the board to say unanimously that we have to do something."
Mr. Unruh died in office in 1987. He was 65.