Oil giant Chevron has upped the ante in its controversial Ecuador environmental litigation case by not only filing an ethics complaint against New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli but also demanding all his documents relating to a series of shareholder resolutions on the matter going back to 2005.
Chevron has referred DiNapoli to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, contending that DiNapoli and his predecessor Alan Hevesi, who left in 2007 in a pay-to-play scandal, received campaign contributions from lawyers and consultants seeking settlement in the case.
But its lawyers are also seeking – under a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request – his correspondence with some of the leading responsible investors in the US.
These include institutions such as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), Trillium Asset Management, Boston Common Asset Management and many others, according to a letter sent to DiNapoli by law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher (partial list below).
The complaint purports to show evidence that DiNapoli, who oversees the New York State Common Retirement Fund, received direct financial contributions in excess of $60,000. The fund owns more than $800m of Chevron shares.
“In an apparent quid pro quo exchange, DiNapoli has given his unwavering support and used his public office to take actions on behalf of the plaintiffs, such as sponsoring shareholder resolutions and making public statements against Chevron,” the company said.
“Mr. DiNapoli’s actions serve only his political patrons, not the citizens of the State of New York or thebeneficiaries of the Common Retirement Fund,” said Chevron’s general counsel Hewitt Pate.
Ahead of Chevron’s annual meeting in May this year, DiNapoli was among a group of 40 institutional investors with combined assets of $580bn who wrote to Chevron calling on it to settle the Ecuador case.
Chevron’s CEO, John Watson, had earlier taken the unusual step of writing to investors to heavily criticise some of the voting recommendations of proxy voting agency Institutional Shareholder Series (ISS).
In the event, a shareholder resolution calling for an independent chairman at Chevron gained 38% of votes – amid strong support for a series of investor proposals on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
Dutch pension fund giant PGGM, which also voted against the re-election of Chevron Chief Executive John Watson, said the combined CEO/Chairman role is “obviously compromised”.
Last month the Strathclyde Pension Fund in the UK put the company on observation.
Chevron is seeking DiNapoli’s correspondence with a range of groups and individuals, among them are:
-Trillium Asset Management
-International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund
-Mercy Investment Services
-Zevin Asset Management
-Christopher Reynolds Foundation
-Boston Common Asset Management