Exxon shareholders soundly reject splitting CEO/chairman roles

(Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp shareholders soundly rejected climate-related proposals and splitting the chairman and chief executive’s roles at the oil major’s shareholder meeting on Wednesday.

Climate activists had swung behind efforts to split the roles of chief executive and chairman after prior defeats on climate reports. This year’s vote on an independent chair collected 32.7% of the vote, down from nearly 41% last year.

Exxon’s director slate was approved by an average of 93.6%, the company said in preliminary results.

Influential proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services this year recommended a vote against the independent chairman resolution.

Matrix Asset Advisors, which holds around 135,000 shares of Exxon, said it voted in line with ISS because it has no major issue with Exxon management, said President David Katz. “Nothing has risen to the level where we have to step in and make our voice heard,” Katz said.

Exxon had taken steps to bolster its defenses against the measure by granting its lead director increased authority to pre-review board agendas and to meet with top shareholders. The proposal last year received nearly 41% of the vote, up from 38.7% in 2018.

Unlike European rivals, Exxon faces little government pressure to curb greenhouse emissions or strike deals with climate activists. Under CEO Darren Woods, it blocked six climate resolutions from this year’s ballot, encouraging activists to seek the split.

Other shareholder proposals that failed included calls for the company to increase its reporting of lobbying, political contributions and petrochemical risks, and to make it easier for shareholders to call special meetings.

Top Exxon holders’ Vanguard Group, BlackRock Inc and State Street Corp declined to comment on their votes. The three combined own about 20% of Exxon shares.

BlackRock this year signed on to the Climate Action 100+ investor group seeking carbon emissions curbs.

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