Unique-New York state pension fund backs activist nominees in Exxon proxy combat By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Exxon signal is seen at a gasoline station within the Chicago suburb of Norridge

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By Jennifer Hiller

HOUSTON (Reuters) -New York state’s pension fund on Friday threw its assist behind an activist fund’s slate of nominees to Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE:)’s board, heating up a proxy combat for the corporate’s future.

The most important U.S. oil producer Exxon and activist hedge fund Engine No. 1 are battling over board seats following Exxon’s historic web annual lack of $22.4 billion for 2020. The fund has criticized the producer for “important underperformance” and a lagging method to cleaner fuels.

The Exxon board “wants an overhaul,” to raised handle local weather dangers and information the corporate to a low carbon future, mentioned N.Y. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The activist fund nominees embody Gregory Goff and Anders Runevad, former chief executives of oil refiner Andeavor and wind-turbine producer Vestas Wind Methods, respectively; Kaisa Hietala, former head of renewable fuels at End refiner Neste; and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Vitality for effectivity and renewable power, Alexander Karsner.

“We’re excited to have a brand new slate of candidates to assist,” DiNapoli mentioned. “We’re supporting Engine No 1’s slate of candidates as a result of they carry transformative business expertise to the desk and maintain out hope that it isn’t too late to show the tide at Exxon and enhance its efficiency.”

Exxon and Engine No. 1 didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Engine No. 1 additionally has received assist from California State Academics’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the second largest U.S. pension fund. Hedge fund D.E. Shaw plans to vote with the corporate, based on folks acquainted with the matter.

New York state pension funds overseen by DiNapoli additionally will vote in favor of current Exxon board members Kenneth Frazier and Ursula Burns and two of three board members Exxon has added in latest months, activist investor Jeffrey Ubben and former Comcast (NASDAQ:) government Michael Angelakis, however will withhold votes on the remaining administrators, it mentioned.

It isn’t in favor of oil government Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, a former CEO of Malaysian state power agency Petronas, who Exxon additionally named to the board this 12 months.

The funds maintain 8.14 million shares of Exxon, based on Refinitiv. The fund has beforehand led shareholder proposals calling on Exxon to element on its enterprise might be affected by local weather change. It additionally has supported proposals to separate the CEO and chairman’s roles on the oil producer.

The combat for board seats is costing Exxon no less than $35 million greater than its typical proxy solicitation prices, with the most important U.S. oil producer marshalling executives, TV appearances, social media and web sites to rebut the problem, based on regulatory filings. [nL1N2M70X0]

Engine No. 1 has a $30 million funds for the combat, based on regulatory filings.

Exxon can be urging shareholders to reject proposals to separate its chairman and CEO roles, and block climate-related stories sought by different teams.

To blunt investor criticism, in latest months it has expanded its board, pledged to extend low-carbon initiatives, improved local weather disclosures and mentioned it will decrease the depth of its oilfield greenhouse gasoline emissions.

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