May 27, 2021 News
– Wins two Board seats to represent climate change issues
By Kiana Wilburg
Engine No. 1, a relatively small hedge fund, delivered a massive blow to ExxonMobil Corporation, America’s powerhouse in the fossil fuel industry, as it was able to get two of its four nominees elected to the company’s Board.
In the preliminary results released yesterday for the Annual Shareholder’s Meeting, Re-elected ExxonMobil Directors were Chairman of the company, Darren Woods; Michael Angelakis, Susan Avery, Angela Braly, Ursula Burns, Kenneth Frazier, Joseph Hooley and Jeffrey Ubben. Elected from Engine No. 1’s nominees were Gregory Goff and Kaisa Hietala.
This newspaper understands that Goff has a long track record of success in the energy industry. He served as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Andeavor (ANDV), a leading petroleum refining and marketing company formerly known as Tesoro, for eight years ending in 2018. He was also named one of the “Best-Performing CEOs in the World” by Harvard Business Review in 2018.With regard to Ms. Hietala, Engine One was keen to note that she is an experienced leader in strategic transformation in the energy sector who began her career in oil and gas exploration and crude oil trading.
She played a central role in the strategic transformation of Neste into the world’s largest and most profitable producer of renewable diesel and jet fuel, which was named by Harvard Business Review as one of the “Top 20 Business Transformations of the Last Decade” in 2019.Up to press time, the outcome was not yet determined for ExxonMobil director, candidates Steven Kandarian, Douglas Oberhelman, Samuel Palmisano and Wan Zulkiflee, and for Engine No. 1 candidate Alexander Karsner. A fourth Engine No. 1 candidate, Anders Runevad, was not elected.In a statement, ExxonMobil Corporation said the Board will reconsider two shareholder proposals that received majority shareholder approval, one of which is dedicated to climate lobbying.
Kaieteur News understands that the preliminary vote count is subject to certification by the Independent Inspector of Elections.
It should be noted however, that yesterday’s voting process was not without its fair share of challenges as there was an unprecedented move by ExxonMobil to adjourn the voting for more than an hour. Upon noting this, Engine No. 1 said, “In seeking to delay the closing of the polls, ExxonMobil is using corporate machinery for its own purpose rather than that of shareholders and avoiding the election of individuals with the transformative energy experience required to position the Company for long-term success in a changing world.”
It added, “Shareholders should not be fooled by ExxonMobil’s last-ditch attempt to stave off much-needed board change in response to significant shareholder pressure and the prospect of losing a proxy contest. Shareholders have spoken. ExxonMobil should accept the result, take the vote and move forward.”
Furthermore, the Coalition United for a Responsible Exxon (CURE) that recently published a paper that analyses ExxonMobil Corporation’s critical governance failures and poor performance disclosed to the international press that it sees the election of Engine No. 1 nominees, Gregory Goff and Kaisa Hietala, to the Board of Directors as significant steps towards bringing Exxon in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.“Today, shareholders sent a strong signal to Exxon and other oil majors that business as usual is not an option,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, a member of CURE. “The fact that at least two of Engine No. 1’s four board candidates were elected reflects the right of shareholders to escalate the demand for transformation at companies such as Exxon,” expressed Behar.
He added, “The new board should act on this mandate for change and adopt Paris compliant transition plans immediately and begin the hard, but necessary work of creating the roadmap to transform the company’s core business.”
As of today, CURE represents over 135 stakeholder organisations, which collectively represent $2.5 trillion in assets focused on sustainability and committed to delivering long-term returns that account for the realities of a changing energy sector.
Since December last, Kaieteur News had reported that Engine No. 1’s challenge for board seats was rooted in its dissatisfaction with ExxonMobil’s emissions output. According to Bloomberg, the oil giant’s annual emissions from its operations are set to increase from 122 million metric tons in 2017 to 143 million metric tons in 2025. The investment firm was also concerned about the company’s decisions, which have led to its declining fiscal health.
In a statement to industry stakeholders, Engine No. 1 had said, “Investors increasingly want to see companies focused on the long-term and ExxonMobil is no exception. We believe that ExxonMobil’s Board needs new members who have proven success positioning energy companies for today as well as tomorrow, and who are sufficiently independent from the current Board to ensure a clean break from a strategy and mindset that have led to years of value destruction and poorly positioned the Company for the future.”
While ExxonMobil has recently taken incremental steps to improve its performance in the face of financial and shareholder pressure, Engine One said it is of the firm belief that a reactive short-term approach is no substitute for a proactive long-term strategy that addresses the threats and opportunities facing the company in a changing world.
Taking this into consideration, among other factors, the new investment firm had proposed four independent nominees – each of whom it said brought a differentiated skill set that made them uniquely suited to help the Board chart a new value-creating path, including better long-term capital discipline, strategic planning, and management incentives.
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