DALLAS — Exxon Mobil Corp. shareholders soundly voted down a slew of social and environmental resolutions, as the big energy company countered activists’ protests with some grandstanding of its own.
Succumbing to defeat at the annual meeting were shareholder resolutions that challenged Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, on issues such as global warming, corporate accountability and gay rights.
Still, activists promoting the measures expressed satisfaction with the number of votes they did get — representing in several cases more than 20% of the 5.5 billion shares voted. “I’m quite happy. This is one of the largest companies in the world, and this is some major support,” said Patricia Daly, executive director of the Tri State Coalition for Responsible Investment, a group of Catholic institutional investors.
But Lee Raymond, Exxon Mobil’s chairman and chief executive, said the company has been consistent in its approach to the issues, and “there’s nothing I’ve seen in the vote that suggests there should be any significant change.”
Supporters of Exxon Mobil, which has long been a target of environmental and human-rights activists, seemed determined to have their say at this year’s meeting. An antiprotester protest was held in front of its meeting place in downtown Dallas. Some Exxon supporters dressed in Uncle Sam costumes and one was in traditional Muslim robes. The pro-Exxon Mobil picketers, many wearing “Tyranny Response Squad” T-shirts, far outnumbered the handful of anti-Exxon protesters picketing on the other side of the street.
Inside the meeting, Exxon Mobil set up separate microphones for those speaking in favor and those against the shareholder proposals. Mr. Raymond toggled back and forth between the pro and con mikes, making sure each side got an equal say. The result was a dizzying swing between lavish praise for Exxon Mobil — including one shareholder who gushed that Mr. Raymond, who was paid $5.4 million in salary and bonuses last year, deserves a raise — and activists condemning the company on environmental and human-rights issues.
In his speech to shareholders, Mr. Raymond defended the company’s emphasis on oil and gas over other renewable sources such as solar or wind-generated energy, saying the world’s energy needs will be dominated by fossil fuels for years to come. Mr. Raymond said Exxon Mobil is responding to climate change risks by working on new technologies to limit pollution while producing reliable and affordable energy.
Critics charge that Exxon Mobil’s reluctance to acknowledge industry’s role in climate change and embrace renewable energy sources could have repercussions for the environment and for the company’s financial standing.
The biggest, but still small, gain in shareholder support was seen for a proposal to explicitly bar discrimination against gays at the company. It won 27.1% of votes, up from 23.9% last year.
A proposal asking Exxon to detail its efforts to develop renewable energy sources drew 21% of the votes, a smidgen above last year’s 20.2% approval. Another proposal asking for Exxon to report on its response to risks posed by climate change received 22% of the votes, compared with less than 6% when it was last proposed in 1999.
A requirement for shareholder approval of any antitakeover poison-pill policy received 32.3% of the votes, down from last year’s 44.9%. A similar proposal has prevailed at many companies this year, including at ChevronTexaco Corp., where the proposal was approved with 55% of the shareholder vote.
Among resolutions rejected by Exxon Mobil shareholders, the following
would have recommended or requested that the board or company:
— Submit to shareholder vote any board action regarding “poison
2003 Approval: 32.3%
2002 Approval: 44.9
— Amend bylaws so as to require future chairmen of the board be
independent and to prohibit them from serving concurrently as CEO:
2003 Approval: 21.5%
— Amend policies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual
2003 Approval: 27.1%
2002 Approval: 23.9
— Report on the risks to the company associated with climate change,
and on plans to mitigate those risks, by September 2003:
2003 Approval: 22%
— Report on the company’s response to pressures to develop renewable
2003 Approval: 21%
2002 Approval: 20.2
Note: 2002 results included for returning resolutions only.
Source: the company
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COMPANY (TICKER): Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)
NEWS SUBJECT: Corporate Actions; Corporate/Industrial News; Environmental News; Environmental News; General News; Political/General News; High-Yield Issuers; Annual Meetings; Annual Meetings; Petroleum Markets; Crude Oil/Natural Gas Product Markets; Dow Jones Total Market Index; Wall Street Journal; English language content; Climate Change; Shareholder-Rights Plans; Share Capital; Funding/Capital; Shareholder-Rights Plans; Earnings; Performance; Energy Markets; Commodity Markets; Commodity/Financial Market News; Weather; Global/World Issues; Routine General News (CAC CCAT ENV GENV GEN
MARKET SECTOR: Energy; Newswire End Code (ENE NND)
INDUSTRY: Oil-Integrated Majors; Dow Jones Industrial Average components; Dow Jones Global Titans Index components; Islamic Index; S&P 500 Index component (OIL XDJI XGTI XISL XSP5)
REGION: North America; Texas; United States – Texas; United States; United States; Southern U.S.; North American Countries (NME TX USTX US USA USS NAMZ)
LAYOUT CODES: Large Majors; Business and Finance Column Stories (LMJ TPT)
Word Count: 722
5/29/03 WSJ A2
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