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Church Commissioners, Di Napoli write to SEC as ExxonMobil tries to omit climate change proposal

Letter in response to ‘no-action’ move by oil giant in wake of COP21

A $300bn (€273.5bn) group of leading investors in oil giant ExxonMobil led by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and the Church Commissioners for England have written to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the US regulator, asking it to deny the company’s request for permission to block their shareholder proposal calling for information on its response to the COP21 global agreement on climate change.

Under the so-called ‘no action’ process at the SEC, companies apply to be allowed to omit shareholder proposals using a variety of legal arguments. RI understands the investors believe they have a strong position and are looking forward to the SEC’s response.

DiNapoli, trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the Church Commissioners and others (see list below) had filed the shareholder proposal in December. They own a combined $1bn stake in the company.

The wanted Exxon to explain how its business would be affected by and adjust to the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change at the end of last year. According to the investors, Exxon went to the SEC to get the nod for omitting the resolution from the agenda at its forthcoming AGM. By going public at this stage, the investors will put the spotlight on how the SEC handles the case.

“Exxon risks becoming an outlier among its peers who have publicly supported reining in climate change,” DiNapoli said.“As investors, we need to know how Exxon’s bottom line will be impacted by the global effort to reduce emissions and what the company plans to do about it.”

Edward Mason, Head of Responsible Investment for the Church Commissioners, added: “We are extremely disappointed that even after the Paris climate change agreement ExxonMobil has contested the relevance of the resolution we have co-filed.

“We believe that our desire to see reporting on how ExxonMobil’s business would fare were warming to be restricted to 2 degrees Celsius is widely shared in the institutional investor community. It is a perfectly reasonable ask.”

Exxon’s stated position is that global governments will not impose restrictions that meet the 2 degree target and that it is “confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become stranded.” As a result, the company has argued to the SEC that it has no need to conduct the 2-degree analysis called for by shareholders.

The stance is in contrast to peers such as Shell and BP, who have agreed to describe how they will be affected by lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Filers:

Comptroller DiNapoli
Church Commissioners

Co-filers:
Vermont State Employees’ Retirement System
University of California Retirement Plan
Brainerd Foundation
Zevin Asset Management