Unique-New York state pension fund backs activist nominees in Exxon proxy combat By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Exxon signal is seen at a fuel station within the Chicago suburb of Norridge

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By Jennifer Hiller

HOUSTON (Reuters) -New York state’s pension fund on Friday threw its help behind an activist fund’s slate of nominees to Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE:)’s board, heating up a proxy combat for the corporate’s future.

The most important U.S. oil producer Exxon and activist hedge fund Engine No. 1 are battling over board seats following Exxon’s historic web annual lack of $22.4 billion for 2020. The fund has criticized the producer for “vital underperformance” and a lagging strategy to cleaner fuels.

The Exxon board “wants an overhaul,” to higher handle local weather dangers and information the corporate to a low carbon future, stated N.Y. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The activist fund nominees embrace Gregory Goff and Anders Runevad, former chief executives of oil refiner Andeavor and wind-turbine producer Vestas Wind Techniques, respectively; Kaisa Hietala, former head of renewable fuels at End refiner Neste; and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Power for effectivity and renewable vitality, Alexander Karsner.

“We’re excited to have a brand new slate of candidates to help,” DiNapoli stated. “We’re supporting Engine No 1’s slate of candidates as a result of they bring about transformative business expertise to the desk and maintain out hope that it’s not too late to show the tide at Exxon and enhance its efficiency.”

Exxon and Engine No. 1 didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Engine No. 1 additionally has received help from California State Lecturers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the second largest U.S. pension fund. Hedge fund D.E. Shaw plans to vote with the corporate, in response to folks acquainted with the matter.

New York state pension funds overseen by DiNapoli additionally will vote in favor of current Exxon board members Kenneth Frazier and Ursula Burns and two of three board members Exxon has added in latest months, activist investor Jeffrey Ubben and former Comcast (NASDAQ:) govt Michael Angelakis, however will withhold votes on the remaining administrators, it stated.

It isn’t in favor of oil govt Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, a former CEO of Malaysian state vitality agency Petronas, who Exxon additionally named to the board this yr.

The funds maintain 8.14 million shares of Exxon, in response to Refinitiv. The fund has beforehand led shareholder proposals calling on Exxon to element on its enterprise may very well be affected by local weather change. It additionally has supported proposals to separate the CEO and chairman’s roles on the oil producer.

The combat for board seats is costing Exxon no less than $35 million greater than its typical proxy solicitation prices, with the most important U.S. oil producer marshalling executives, TV appearances, social media and web sites to rebut the problem, in response to regulatory filings. [nL1N2M70X0]

Engine No. 1 has a $30 million funds for the combat, in response to regulatory filings.

Exxon can be urging shareholders to reject proposals to separate its chairman and CEO roles, and block climate-related experiences sought by different teams.

To blunt investor criticism, in latest months it has expanded its board, pledged to extend low-carbon initiatives, improved local weather disclosures and stated it might decrease the depth of its oilfield greenhouse fuel emissions.

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