June 16, 2024

The ExxonMobil logo

The ExxonMobil logo
Photo: Chris Helgren (Reuters)

CalPers, the largest state pension fund in the United States, released a statement Monday that it will oppose the entire board of directors slate at its annual meeting next week as well as the re-nomination of the company’s CEO because of a climate change-related lawsuit Exxon filed.

“Decades of shareholder rights are under threat from a lawsuit filed by the leaders of a powerful U.S. corporation, designed to punish two small groups that dared to speak truth to power,” the fund said.

In January, Exxon sued the Dutch-based collective Follow This and the US-based Arjuna Capital, two activist investor groups that wanted the oil giant to make firmer commitments to fight climate change. They had submitted a shareholder proposal to that effect, and Exxon sued them to block it. They dropped the proposal, but Exxon has not dropped its lawsuit. CalPERS, which has nearly $500 billion in assets under management, is not happy about that.

“The two small shareholder groups being sued by ExxonMobil seek additional actions on climate change, a serious threat to long-term investment returns,” the fund said in its statement. “But let’s be clear: This is not about climate change. The company’s decision to seek new, broad corporate power puts every issue on the table.

“If ExxonMobil succeeds in silencing voices and upending the rules of shareholder democracy, what other subjects will the leaders of any company make off limits? Worker safety? Excessive executive compensation?

“Might future shareholders who seek answers from a company’s leaders be ignored because of the legal precedent now sought by ExxonMobil?”

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