Chevron shareholders reject ‘stranded assets’ dividend proposal while backing proxy access

Innovative shareholder proposal drama from the unburnable carbon thesis gets few takers

Shareholders in oil giant Chevron overwhelmingly rejected an innovative shareholder proposal on dividend policy and stranded assets at the oil giant’s AGM yesterday – but did support the ‘proxy access’ resolution backed by CalPERS and the New York City Pension Funds.

Around 96% of the votes cast at the meeting went against the proposal to adopt a dividend policy in light of potential stranded assets that was filed by advocacy group As You Sow.

The resolution, which drew on the stranded assets/unburnable carbon thesis, was the subject of the new Vote Your Pension campaign run by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project and SumOfUs campaign groups with the support of the International Trade Union Confederation.

Early shareholder vote disclosures, as reported by RI yesterday, had indicated investors were likely to reject the resolution, with the likes of the Florida State Board of Administration and CalPERS arguing dividend policy was the board’s responsibility.

In addition, some 91% of shareholder votes cast went against the shareholder proposal regarding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This had also been the subject of an investor campaign – coordinated by the Interfaith Center on CorporateResponsibility (ICCR) – that had attracted the support of investors with combined assets of $1trn. A similar voting result occurred at peer company ExxonMobil, the other campaign target, according to reports.

Investors appear to think that the best way to effect change is to have more sway over board nominations, as evidenced by 55% support for the non-binding proxy access motion at Chevron.

As Anne Simpson, Director of CalPERS Global Governance, put it in a letter to fellow Chevron shareholders ahead of the meeting: “Proxy access is fundamental to a sustainable system of corporate governance that fosters director accountability and long-term value creation.”

Some 75 US companies are being targeted by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s Boardroom Accountability Project, with Chevron the latest company where proxy access has won shareholder support.

Chevron had recommended a vote against it, saying it didn’t believe the proponents had demonstrated why it should “hastily adopt” it. After the vote, though, Chevron said it would consider the final voting results carefully – especially the “thoughtful stockholder discussions” on proxy access.

Chevron’s voting results are available here.