The vote on a third candidate proposed by the No.1 Engine was too close to be called at 1:15 p.m. on Wall Street.
The group, which owns 0.02% of Exxon’s capital, has been targeting the company since December, pushing Exxon to reconsider its role in a zero carbon world.
Wednesday’s vote took place at Exxon’s annual shareholders meeting, where CEO Darren Woods answered questions from shareholders ranging from the company’s dividend to Exxon’s investments in carbon capture technology.
The meeting was held in two parts, with a break of about an hour in between due to a number of votes still being cast.
The vote follows months of back-and-forth between the No.1 engine and Exxon. The activist firm nominated four independent director candidates and garnered support from major pension funds, including CalPERS, calSTRS and New York State Common Retirement Fund.
But the No.1 engine said the changes didn’t go far enough. “What the board needs are directors with experience in making successful and profitable transformations in the energy industry who can help turn aspirations to address the risks of climate change into a long-term business plan,” and not talking points, ”the company said in a statement Monday.
For its part, Exxon management has focused on the steps it is taking to consolidate its role in a more low-carbon future, including allocating $ 3 billion to research around carbon capture and other emission reduction technologies.
In March, the oil giant added two new directors to its board, including ESG investor Jeff Ubben, who founded Inclusive Capital Partners. Ubben previously ran the activist company ValueAct, which he launched in 2000.
The battle over Exxon’s board of directors comes as the company’s shares have recovered from their pandemic lows. Shares are up over 40% for 2021 and gained 26% over the past year amid recovering oil prices and aggressive cost-cutting strategies by the company. Still, the stock has been halved from its all-time high above $ 100 in January 2014, and last year the company was pulled from the Dow Jones Industrial Average after nearly a century in the ‘index.
Exxon posted a profit in the first quarter of 2021 after four straight quarters of losses as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the oil and gas industry.
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