May 31, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Too many Guyanese still lack a good enough understanding of the ways of the world, and how the real world operates. It is how giant oil powers, like Exxon, function, and the dogged ways that they pursue matters of interest to them, to get their way. For companies operating under the banner of capitalism, it is war, as they refine approaches to overcome obstacles and adversaries standing in their way. This is what was confirmed in a Bloomberg article dated May 29, titled “Exxon’s last-ditch attempt to stave off a climate coup.” When people are desperate, they resort to desperate measures, which is what Exxon did.
As the Bloomberg coverage noted, Exxon was mostly “dismissive” of the upstarts, and still gathering voices, actively campaigning for material changes in the company’s attitudes and actions on the environment and climate change. But in the hours leading up to the annual shareholders meeting, “Exxon telephoned the investors on the morning of casting their ballots…asking them to reconsider their votes.” This was one desperate company, which some of those called made known. And as confirmation, of just how desperate and worried Exxon’s top management was, the telephone calls begging for a change of heart, meaning voting against the rebel shareholders nominated directors to be on the Board continued “even during an unscheduled, hour-long pause during the virtual meeting.” It should not surprise that those frantic outbound calls were going to the big investors holding millions of shares, like BlackRock and Vanguard and Fidelity, whose votes would make the difference between Exxon prevailing or succumbing.
This is troubling and, as one who received such a call said, “It don’t feel good as an investor.” Though the company may not have broken any rules, there is the feeling that this was not fully on the up and up, with particular emphasis on what was described as the “unusual” action for a blue-chip company to take during that hour-long break, and then use it to lobby investors to change their vote. And just so that Guyanese keep in sight where we are going with this, it was all about Exxon’s resistance to doing what the world is moving towards. That is, recognising and accepting that climate change is a real and present danger, and that corporate visions, strategies, and actions must be in accord with what safeguard our planet. From its stubbornness, and its public relations spin, it is now beyond doubt that Exxon’s soothing words about its intents and plans are only so much lip service, lacking seriousness. Now, in an effort to make Guyanese think, we pose a few simple questions.
For starters, if Exxon is so concerned about the environment and climate change, then why the resistance? Second, if Exxon is about corporate democracy, then how does it explain or rationalise those “last-ditch” desperation calls? Why not let the process, as enshrined in laws, work its ways to the natural conclusion, whatever that is? And, here is the big one for Guyanese with their newfound oil treasure, if Exxon could be so bold as to attempt what it did in transparent and vigilant America, what would it do, and not do, in this divided and wretched outpost called Guyana? Does that not explain excessive flaring? And repeatedly broken compressors? And the company’s indifference and evasions? We at this paper have still more, which we present in the form of reasonable inquiries before citizens. We think that Exxon has made midday and midnight calls to, and held secret meetings with, whose details are highly confidential, Guyanese politicians and Guyanese elites, with the sole objective of compromising them, and getting the locals to stand on the company’s side, regardless of what it does here. Haven’t Exxon appeared to have so engaged? Then, how do we explain the silence of the leaders in the Guyana government, Guyana’s opposition, and Guyana’s civil society? How about its professional class? They have had nothing to offer in defence of Guyana’s interests, because they have been woefully compromised, weakened. They cannot breathe a word of objection. This is how Exxon works here, deals here. It is in the bloodstream and brain cells of the Exxon(s) of the world. It is having things their way, all the way, all the time. Guyanese are worst off for it, with no champions around.
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