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ExxonMobil shareholders air grievances

CNNMoney.com

ExxonMobil shareholders air grievances

Despite reporting giant profits, energy heavyweight faces an investor backlash led by Rockefeller heirs.

By Ben Rooney, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly-owned energy company, took up a series of proposals Wednesday made by shareholders who are dissatisfied with the company’s direction.

Shareholders have proposed a total of 19 resolutions, which will be voted on at the company’s annual meeting in Dallas. The proposals cover issues ranging from corporate structure and executive compensation to alternative energy and environmental protection.

Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil’s chairman and CEO, said the company has “followed a business model that focuses on the long term.”

Climate risk “warrants serious action,” Tillerson said. ExxonMobil is working to lower its “environmental footprint while generating long-term value for our shareholders,” he added.

One of the most contentious issues on the ballot is a resolution to separate the role of chairman and chief executive. Proponents say an independent chairman would serve as a counterbalance to Tillerson.

Some of the most vocal supporters of this resolution – including descendants of oil baron John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, which evolved into ExxonMobil – say Tillerson has not done enough to address the changing energy landscape.

“We believe our company is now lagging in creating solutions for the looming climate and energy crisis,” wrote Neva Rockefeller-Goodwin in support of a proposal to ExxonMobil’s board.

Rockefeller-Goodwin, who is a professor of economics and co-director of Global Development and Environmental Institute at Tufts University, urges the company to do more to develop alternative sources of energy.

If the company continues to rely on the sale of “hydrocarbon energy” it faces a “painful paradox in the future,” she wrote. “Part of John D. Rockefeller’s genius was in recognizing early on the need and opportunity of a transition to a better and cheaper fuel.”

In response, ExxonMobil argues that it has focused on becoming more efficient rather than investing in alternative sources that may not pay off. The company also argues that future regulation of greenhouse gases could have unforeseeable implications for present initiatives to address global warming.

The management of ExxonMobil (XOMFortune 500) counters that there’s no need for the split since the company’s board has a majority of independent members. To top of page

 

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