The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) believes global warming may worsen if the fund chooses to divest from ExxonMobil.
Democratic Congressmen [crscore]Ted Lieu[/crscore] and [crscore]Mark DeSaulnier[/crscore] sent a letter to CalPERS CEO Anne Stausboll on March 31, suggesting the pension fund’s decision to invest in Exxon is “morally suspect.”
The letter urged CalPERS, which totes the U.S.’s largest pension fund at $300 billion, to purge its Exxon assets — if not for the climate, the lawmakers argue, then at least to put the pension fund in line with other major institutions choosing divestment.
“CalPERS appreciates and respects the letter by Congressman Lieu and Congressman DeSaulnier. Like the Congressmen, we are committed to addressing climate change issues,” CalPERS media information officer Megan White said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation Monday.
Divesting from Exxon would be a grave mistake, the pension argued, adding that the fund’s managers think they will lose their “ability to influence companies if we divest.”
“Divestment will therefore leave us exposed to the effects of climate change,” White said. CalPERS went on to argue that divesting would be unacceptable to the group’s stewards, especially those who are concerned about changing the culture surrounding fossil fuels.
CalPERS is therefore embarking on what it calls an “aggressive” three-prong strategy that includes “engagement, where we push for change at companies,” advocate companies make changes to better Earth’s climate, as well as integrate a company’s pro-climate decisions into the pension’s own investment decisions.
The fund owned $1.2 billion in Exxon in 2013.
Lieu and DeSaulnier are losing patience with the pension’s strategy.
“We have seen no discernible evidence that CalPERS’ efforts to engage ExxonMobil have resulted in any significant change in the way the company operates when it comes to taking action on climate change,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
The lawmakers’ angst stems from a September investigation of ExxonMobil conducted by InsideClimate News and others. The group, funded primarily by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, found that Exxon had allegedly concealed information concerning global warming from shareholders and the general public.
Still, CalPERS maintains it believes it can persuade Exxon into taking seriously the complaints made by environmentalists.
“At ExxonMobil last year, we won the highest-ever vote for a shareowner proposal, losing by less than 1 percent of the vote. At other major energy companies we won, and now have that right,” White told The DCNF. “This is a game changer.”
Once the pension fund gains another access proposal, then it will advocate for Exxon board members “who are climate competent.”
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