Energy

Former Trump Official Wants To Block Activists From Petitioning Exxon

REUTERS/Mike Stone

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A former member of President Donald Trump’s transition team is angling to block “nuisance” Exxon Mobil shareholders from forcing the company into adopting climate resolutions.

Steve Milloy, a climate skeptic and Exxon shareholder, told reporters earlier this month that he intends to ask the government to scrap petitions entirely. He hopes the effort will prevent activist shareholders from pushing the oil company into accepting resolutions on global warming.

The lawyer-statistician said he wants the oil producer to end support for a national carbon tax, rebuke the Paris agreement on climate change, and discontinue funding climate research. Milloy submitted his resolution through a mutual fund he ran called the Free Enterprise Action Fund. The resolution requests Exxon change its bylaws blocking stockholders from filing resolutions.

“They’re letting the politics of the activists win the day,” Milloy, who is also an attorney with conservative legal group Energy & Environment Legal Institute, told Climate Wire. Exxon understands the need to nix the petitions, he added, but they’re more intent on playing “their dopey global warming game.”

The company, meanwhile, opposes the lawyer’s scheme and unsuccessfully requested the Securities and Exchange Commission block the effort. Milloy’s resolution will be put to a vote at Exxon’s next annual meeting.

Milloy’s plan comes on the heels of an activist-led ploy to force Exxon into naming a climatologist to the company’s board of directors. It relented and elected Susan Avery, a former director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Avery, climate scientist specializing in atmospheric dynamics and climate change, helped the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cobble together climate research.

Investors — who own 20.9 percent of the company’s shares — argued Exxon’s board needs voices advocating climate science. Milloy considers these types of investors “nuisance investors” because he thinks their sole intent is to force the company away from producing fossil fuels.

Many of the company’s greatest institutional shareholders say they are worried that the largest energy company in the world is not adequately preparing to contend with the directives laid out in the Paris Agreement.

The oil giant has pushed pro-carbon tax arguments in the past to reduce carbon emission levels — but it has greatly increased its call for the tax as pressure mounts to counter environmentalist claims it is contributing to so-called man-made global warming.

Milloy is not alone in his campaign to limit small activists’ influence on large publicly-traded companies. The Business Roundtable, an advocacy group in Washington, is also trying to restrict small investors who petition redirecting companies’ efforts.

The organization sent a letter to the Trump administration criticizing minor investors.

“In too many cases, activist investors with insignificant stakes in public companies make shareholder proposals that pursue social or political agendas unrelated to the interests of the shareholders as a whole,” the letter reads.

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