Thursday, May 24, 2007

Investors Want to Shake Up ExxonMobil

Some ExxonMobil investors are fed up with the oil giant's sluggish action on global warming solutions. Specifically, a group of institutional investors and shareholders that include the California State Teachers Retirement Systems, labor funds, and the treasurers of six states called on shareholders to vote against the reappointment of Michael Boskin, chairman of Exxon's public issues committee. The annual meeting is May 30.

The group has asked Boskin, a Standford University economist, to meet with them to discuss the company's leadership on global warming solutions, and he has refused five times. Connecticut's State Treasurer, Denise Nappier,
told reporters:
"While ExxonMobil's competitors are moving aggressively on climate change, this company - one of the world's largest refiners and marketers of oil products - continues to hide its head in the sand rather than acknowledge the business implications of climate change."
The group of shareholders own about 100 million Exxon shares, which is less than 2 percent of the 5.6 billion outstanding shares.

Exxon has responded that Boskin has answered all of Nappier's letters and had arranged for shareholders to meet with management on climate change issues.

I brought up the question on leadership on global warming issues when I spoke with Ken Cohen, Exxon's VP of External Affairs. Competitors like BP and Chevron are not only talking about global warming (like Exxon has started to do) but are taking measurable action to clean up their operations, make them more efficient, and diversify by investing in renewable energy. It's not surprising that some shareholders are nervous about a company that talks the talk but hasn't taken the first significant step in walking the walk.

Earlier this week, Greenpeace released a report naming Exxon-funded groups that are also climate change skeptics. It certainly makes one skeptical about how serious Exxon is about this issue.

But I also agree with
Kert Davies' comment about Exxon. Davies is a research director for Greenpeace who contributed to the report: “...unless they start pulling with the rest of the world, we're going to have a hard time solving global warming."

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