SAN FRANCISCO, March 1-- Prosper Huerne, a well-known civil engineer of this city, has commenced suit in New York against H.B. Slaven, the Panama Canal contractor, to recover 5,000 shares of stock of the American Contracting and Dredging Company, out of which he claims to have been defrauded by Slaven. The suit involves several million dollars. Testimony is now being taken in this city for use before the New York court, and Mr. Huerne feels confident of success. His claim is that when a young man he became acquainted with Ferdinand de Lesseps in France. When the latter visited this city in 1880 he talked over his great Panama Canal project with Huerne and gave him a contract to build barracks for the workingmen on the Isthmus. Later M.A. Slaven was associated with Huerne in this work. De Lesseps also at that time promised Huerne a dredging contract. When they had gone that far with the work this agreement was carried out, and to Huerne personally was given the contract to dredge 2,000,000 cubic meters at 32 cents a meter. With this contract also was a promise that if the work was well done other contracts would be forthcoming. Huerne at once proceeded to form a stock company and associated with him Henry Lynch, then a mechanical engineer, and H.B. and M.A. Slaven, all of this city, H.B. Slaven being at that time the proprietor of a drug store.
The agreement, so it is affirmed, between these parties was that each should have a one-quarter interest in the concern. Huerne transferred his contract to the company, and the Slavens went East to raise capital. They interested William R. Grace, the Mayor of New York, and several others in the work, and then returned here and reported to Huerne that they could not dispose of much of the stock without giving large concessions. After much persuasion Huerne was prevailed upon to give up 4,000 of his shares, and reserve only 1,000. An agreement to this effect was drawn up and read to Huerne, who then went with the Slavens to a notary to acknowledge it, but on the way the charge is made that the original agreement read to Huerne was made away with and another substituted, which Huerne signed without reading, thinking it to be the genuine contract. This new agreement was an absolute transfer of all interests in this company to H.B. and M.A. Slaven, reserving for himself only the dividend which should be declared on 1,000 shares of stock.
Some time later Huerne wrote to H.B. Slaven in New York, asking that a certain amount of stock be sent him, as he had sold it to another party. Word was then received by him that no stock stood in his name. The stock of the company rose very rapidly in value and earnings under favorable contract with the Panama Canal Company were something enormous. It is said that the American Dredging Company has made at least $70,000,000 out of its contracts. An offer to compromIse has been received by Huerne and rejected.
New York (New York) Times, March 2, 1888.
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