Activist ExxonMobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) investors, five months after winning a landmark shareholder vote, are still pressing the company for an analysis on how its business could be affected by regulations aimed at limiting climate change.
The two sides have held discussions, and talks are continuing ahead of a mid-December deadline to prepare proxy resolutions for next spring’s shareholder meeting, activists said.
An ExxonMobil spokesman said it was meeting with investors but declined to discuss specifics.
A number of investors said they were looking for ExxonMobil to give details such as those recently recommended by a climate task force of the Financial Stability Board. It suggested companies lay out the impact they would face from policies like carbon pricing plans, or how changes in supply and demand for resources like oil would affect their balance sheets.
“We’re hopeful that Exxon will take the opportunity to get in front of this and set new standards in terms of disclosure and transparency around climate change,” said Andrew Howard, head of sustainable research for asset manager Schroders, one of the filers of the resolution which has since spoken with ExxonMobil executives.
Spokespeople for the Church of England and for New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the lead sponsors of the May resolution, also confirmed they were in talks with ExxonMobil.
“We have an active engagement process for environmental, social and governance matters,” said ExxonMobil spokesman Scott Silvestri, who declined to comment on specific meetings with activists. Last year, the company interacted with shareholders that held 1.1 billion shares, including 40% of its institutional holders, he said.
In May, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods said the world’s largest publicly-traded energy company would consider the issue after 62% of shares voted at the meeting supported a non-binding call for an annual climate-impact review.
ExxonMobil faces several lawsuits, including from New York and Massachusetts state attorneys general, over the possibility it misled the public and investors about the risks of climate change. ExxonMobil has denied the allegations and called them politically motivated.
Calls for companies to disclose more about how they will fare in a warming world received higher-than-usual levels of support at shareholder meetings this past spring, sometimes with new backing from asset managers like BlackRock Inc. and Vanguard Group.
Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY), said second-quarter earnings presentation that it would provide additional disclosure of “climate-related risks and opportunities” after a majority of investors backed a call for such a report in May.
Also, this month refiner Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MRO) published a report, “Perspectives on Climate-Related Scenarios,” meant partly to address suggestions from the Financial Stability Board.
A shareholder measure calling for a climate-impact report received 41% support at Marathon’s annual meeting in April.
Some investor activists have a “wait and see” position on what ExxonMobil may disclose. “It’s very unclear what Exxon is going to do” at this point, said Danielle Fugere, president of shareholder advocate As You Sow. She said the California group withdrew a resolution ahead of ExxonMobil’s 2014 shareholder meeting calling for a climate risk analysis, only to be disappointed by the resulting document. On the other hand, were ExxonMobil to do nothing this time around, its directors could face calls for their removal, Fugere said.
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