miércoles, mayo 30, 2007

GLOBAL WARMING: Exxon Holders Reject Climate Proposals, Retain Boskin

by Joe Carroll

Shareholders of Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest oil company, rejected a resolution calling on the company to cut greenhouse gases and voted to retain director Michael Boskin.

A proposal for Exxon Mobil to develop a plan to reduce emissions from its refineries and the fuels it makes received 31 percent in balloting at the company's annual meeting in Dallas. Initiatives to cap pay for top executives, including Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, at $500,000 a year and increase investment in ethanol got less than 8 percent of votes.

Boskin, chairman of the board committee that deals with environmental issues, survived a challenge by an investor group that included the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension fund. Other holders said Boskin deserved support after the company's shares jumped 36 percent last year, the stock's biggest annual gain since 1980.

``We're very happy with how the company has performed,'' Harry Wickes, a retired dentist from Fort Worth, Texas, said in an interview. Wickes attended the meeting with his wife Violet, who has been a shareholder for 27 years. ``They've been very good to the shareholders.''

Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, Texas, was pressured by pension funds, religious groups and environmentalists in the weeks leading up to today's meeting. Critics included California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, the Episcopal Church, New York City Comptroller William Thompson and Greenpeace.

Boskin, a Stanford University economist and who led the White House Council of Economic Advisors from 1989 to 1993, received 93 percent support, down from 94.5 percent last year. Stanford is home to a global-warming research project to which Exxon has pledged $100 million.

Boskin, 61, was criticized by Calpers and more than two dozen other institutional managers representing more than $1 trillion in investment funds after he refused five invitations during the past 18 months to have face-to-face discussions on climate change. Boskin has been a director since 1996.

``I don't understand the arrogance of not wanting to talk to people, particularly large investors,'' Lockyer, a Calpers board member, said in a telephone interview. ``At some point, oil companies that fail to plan for a non-oil world are going to become dinosaurs. This is a strategy to die.''

Exxon Mobil said Boskin arranged a daylong meeting in July 2006 between 19 representatives of the investors and three Exxon vice presidents to discuss the issue. Another meeting is planned for later this year, company spokesman Gantt Walton said today.

``Dr. Boskin has communicated with these particular shareholders four different times,'' Kenneth Cohen, who oversees Exxon Mobil's contributions to public-policy groups, said today in an interview in Dallas. ``Because these issues are so important, he did it in writing.''

About 35 environmental activists gathered across the street from the meeting at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, holding a banner that said, ``Protect the people, protect the planet.'' Exxon Mobil discontinued the practice of distributing donuts to protesters after the 2005 annual meeting. The protest ended after 45 minutes when a thunderstorm erupted.

The company's stock increased 47 percent since Tillerson, 55, became CEO in January 2006. Exxon Mobil earned $39.5 billion in profit last year, a record for any U.S. corporation. The company's 2006 sales of $335 billion exceeded the gross national products of countries including Norway, South Africa and Ireland.

Shares of Exxon Mobil rose $1.38, or 1.4 percent, to $84 in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

A proposal for Exxon Mobil to add sexual orientation to its employee anti-discrimination policy received 38 percent support, up from 35 percent last year. The resolution has been defeated 10 years in a row.

A proposal to allow holders of 10 percent of the company's stock to call special shareholder meetings received almost 48 percent support, more than any other investor-sponsored resolution on this year's ballot.

A resolution to recoup bonuses from executives who failed to achieve performance targets garnered 47 percent support. About 41 percent of holders voted in favor of giving shareholders an advisory vote on pay packages for senior managers.

Investors who supported the failed environmental, executive pay and gay rights measures said they would continue to own Exxon Mobil shares.

``Divestiture is something you do in reaction to poor performance, rather than corporate governance and environmental issues,'' Lockyer said.

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