05-30-07 by Simpson
A shareholder resolution offered by a group of nuns from New Jersey would have required ExxonMobil to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both its products and operations. Though it lost at the annual meeting this week, the measure won stronger than expected support with 31 percent of the vote.
Big institutional investors like CalPERS were among those voting their shares against ExxonMobil’s myopic management and in favor of the resolution. Stanford University, which has a $100 million research deal with the oil giant, nonetheless showed some spine and voted in favor of the environmentally friendly proposal.
So what’s next?
The institutional investors so far haven’t been able to change Exxon’s ways. With a mule you sometimes need to smack him with a 2-by-4 to get his attention.
ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson is demonstrating mulish stubbornness in his unwillingness to face up to global warming. "There are some things we know, some things we don’t know," he said. "What I find perplexing is why people feel so threatened because we want to have a discussion about it."
The time for discussing has long since passed; now it’s time for doing. Sounds to me like those big investors still need to get Tillerson’s attention on global warming.
Here’s how to do it. Everybody who voted for the nuns’ resolution and against ExxonMobil management ought to sell their ExxonMobil shares.
California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a member of the CalPERS board, is reluctant. "Divestiture is something you do in reaction to poor performance, rather than corporate governance and environmental issues,” he said.
Well, what could be more of a performance issue than willfully ignoring the reality of climate change when your competitors are all facing up to it? That will surely led a company to financial ruin.
CalPERS has 30 million shares of ExxonMobil stock, about $2.5 billion worth. That’s a little more than one percent of a total investment portfolio of around $245 billion.
Dumping those shares wouldn’t make much difference to CalPERS financial health, but I bet it sure would get Tillerson’s attention.