Activist investor shakes up ExxonMobil board by winning seats


Activist investor Engine No. 1 won at least two seats on the board of ExxonMobil, delivering a sharp rebuke to the nation’s largest oil company over its climate change policies, according to The Houston Chronicle. 

Shareholders at ExxonMobil’s annual meeting last week voted to add Engine No. 1 candidates Gregory Goff and Kaisa Hietala to the company’s 13-member board, shaking up the boardroom of the largest direct descendant of Standard Oil. ExxonMobil says the votes are still too close to call for the two remaining activist candidates, Alexander Karsner and Anders Runevad.

These new board members, who have experience in renewable energy and corporate transitions, will push to change the future direction of ExxonMobil, which has long called for expanding its fossil fuels business despite growing public concerns about climate change.

ExxonMobil employs roughly 6,000 workers in Louisiana and is in the process of a $334 million upgrade and expansion project at its Baton Rouge chemical plant.

Big Oil faces mounting pressure from investors to change course as the industry emerges from the worst oil bust in decades. On the same day as the ExxonMobil’s vote, a Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to double its efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade. Also today, Chevron’s shareholders voted at their annual meeting to reduce carbon emissions emitted by its customers.

Engine No. 1, a small San Francisco hedge fund founded by technology hedge fund veteran Chris James, sought to replace four directors on ExxonMobil’s board with candidates promising change to the company’s climate policies.

ExxonMobil tried its hardest to repel the activist challenge, spending tens of millions of dollars and offering major concessions to appease climate-minded investors. The company earlier this year announced a $3 billion investment in carbon capture projects and last month floated plans for a $100 billion carbon capture facility in Houston. Read the full story.