25 May, 2021

Exxon under attack from eco-activist investors

There is a group of shareholders that want Exxon to shift its focus away from oil and gas due to their concerns about climate change. I think there are enough oil companies already heading down that path and Exxon is correct in wanting to hold the course. They can dip their toes in the clean energy waters here and there but until wind and solar prove themselves to be consistent and reliable I don’t think it’s worth Exxon’s time and energy. Their duty is to maximize returns to investors and I think as time moves on oil and gas will be just as important as it is today. If they really want a hedge against waning oil and gas demand nuclear energy is the better hedge.

I voted with the current Exxon board.

Tech investor Chris James’s Engine No. 1 had launched an activist campaign against Exxon in December, calling the company a fossil-fuel dinosaur that lacked a coherent plan for surviving a global transition to cleaner energy sources. On the call, Charlie Penner, a hedge-fund veteran helping lead the Engine No. 1 campaign, pressed Mr. Woods to commit to steering Exxon to carbon neutrality, effectively bringing its emissions to zero—both from the company and its products—by 2050.

Mr. Woods refused, arguing that oil companies making such pledges had no real plans to achieve them. “They weren’t interested in having a conversation,” he said in a recent interview. “Frankly, they didn’t have a plan.”

Messrs. Woods, James and Penner failed to come to any agreement in what ended in a contentious exchange, people familiar with the matter said.

Since January, Engine No. 1’s bid for four seats on Exxon’s board has turned into one of the most expensive proxy fights ever. Exxon has spent at least $35 million, and Engine No. 1 has spent $30 million, regulatory filings show, in an increasingly pitched battle to persuade shareholders voting Wednesday at the company’s annual meeting.

Wall Street Journal
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About : Kevin Bae

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