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Biggest U.S. Pension Fund to Vote Against Exxon Board

The United States’ largest pension fund, CalPERS, will vote against the ExxonMobil board at the upcoming May 29 board meeting, in a move designed to block the supermajor’s attempt to sue activist investors who are pressuring it to move more quickly on lowering emissions, Reuters reported on Monday. 

Activist investors have already withdrawn their resolution, but Exxon has continued to forge ahead with the lawsuit, attempting to recoup legal costs related and other expenses accrued in the interim. 

The CalPERS decision has been gaining momentum for months. Back in March, CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System with some $490 billion in assets under management, opined that it was not “particularly helpful for companies to be suing the people who provide their capital”, Reuters cited the fund’s investment director, Drew Hambly, as telling a fund board meeting. At the same time, CalPERS administrative board president, Theresa Taylor, was said to have described Exxon’s move against the activist investors as part of a more intricate plan to derail ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing in the sector. 

However, Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods has consistently defended the company’s actions, saying the activist investors are “not legitimate investors”. 

Recent disclosures show CalPERS holding an approximately 0.2% stake in Exxon, Reuters reports, adding that the final decision to vote against the board on May 29 was recommended by proxy advisor Glass Lewis. 

The board meeting comes shortly after Exxon reported Q1 earnings in April, coming in lower than consensus estimates, due to declining natural gas prices and refining margins and non-cash adjustments. The U.S. supermajor booked first-quarter earnings of $8.2 billion, down from $11.4 billion for the first quarter of 2023. Earnings per share were $2.06 for the first quarter of 2024, down from $2.79 for the same period last year.

Exxon’s Q1 2024 earnings per share were below the analyst consensus forecast of $2.19 compiled by The Wall Street Journal.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 20 2024 said:
    ExxonMobil is right to sue activist investors as they adversely impact the efficient running of one of America’s economic pillars and in so doing harm America’s economy.

    Exxon should equally sue the country’s largest pension fund CalPERS for abetting the disruptive work of activist investors.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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