By Gary McWilliams
HOUSTON Exxon Mobil Corp investors will push to meet with oil company officials this summer to hash out elements of a climate-impact analysis following a shareholder vote calling for studies of technology and climate-related risks to its business. Exxon has said that it will reconsider its opposition to the request, not that it would begin discussions or initiate new studies. The shareholder proposal, filed by 54 groups including financial, religious and corporate governance activists, won the support on Wednesday of 62 percent of Exxon holders. "I anticipate we'll be having a meeting this summer," said Tracey Rembert, assistant director of Catholic Responsible Investing at Christian Brothers Investment Services, one of the 54 co-filers. The White House's decision on Thursday to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change has no bearing on the proposal. "We expect the scenario assessment will start to be done quickly at Exxon," Rembert said.
The investors behind the proposal routinely met in past years with Exxon between December and February to discuss annual meeting proposals, she said. Earlier discussions because of the majority vote are in order.Rembert said the group will ask for Exxon to conduct scenario planning exercises that would look at risks from disruptive technology, climate or government policies. "What are the black swan events that can take place beyond low oil prices, aggressive policies or shifting consumer preferences?" she said.
The reconsideration at Exxon comes as Devon Energy and Hess Corp owners on Wednesday will weigh climate-impact resolutions. Ballot initiatives press for greater studies of the risk that government carbon-reduction efforts in the future make oil and gas reserves uneconomic to tap, leading to investment losses. Study proposals this year received at least 40 percent approval at Duke Energy, Marathon Oil and Southern Co, according to a tally by Ceres, a non-profit group that tracks environmental records of public companies.
"When investors make a very strong statement at a company the size of Exxon Mobil, other competitors in their industry take notice and may reconsider or rethink their investor dialogue on these issues," said Bruce Goldfarb, chief executive of proxy solicitor Okapi Partners.The Exxon shareholder vote will have minor influence because most of the ballots likely were already cast, said Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group seeking a carbon-risk study at Hess. Last year, its proposal was backed by about 23 percent of Hess holders. Hess's vice president of investor relations, Jay Wilson, said the company talks regularly with large shareholders but declined to comment on any discussions since the Exxon vote. Devon didn't respond to requests for comment. Directors at both oil companies oppose the studies. (Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Additional reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
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Updated Date: Jun 02, 2017 22:45 PM