- Activist investor Engine No. 1 was victorious in winning at least two board seats on Exxon Mobil’s board of directors.
- The win was historic given that the first time activist investor built a tiny 0.02% stake in the company.
- The proxy fight between the activist investor and Exxon Mobil signals the increased investor attention towards green energy initiatives.
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Activist investor Engine No. 1 scored a historic win on Wednesday after it won two board seats on Exxon Mobil’s board of directors.
A bitter proxy fight between the major oil company and the small activist investor circled around green energy initiatives, executive pay, and the diversification of Exxon’s fossil fuel business.
The win took many by surprise given that Engine No. 1 is a first time activist investor with just a 0.02% stake in Exxon. Typical activist investor campaigns have been led by well-known Wall Street figures who buy a position upwards 10% in the targeted company.
The win by Engine No. 1 highlighted the growing appetite among investors for corporations to tackle climate change and green energy initiatives head-on. Many top institutional investors view addressing the climate as essential for a successful long-term business, including BlackRock founder and CEO Larry Fink.
Exxon was staunchly against Engine No. 1’s two board nominees, Gregory Goff and Kaisa Hietala. Exxon CEO Darren Woods refused to meet with the nominees and told shareholders that voting for them would “derail our progress and jeopardize your dividend,” according to Bloomberg.
Just two-days before today’s annual shareholder meeting, the company pledged that it would add two new directors to its board to counter-balance the potential addition of Goff and Hietala.
Other fossil-fuel companies have seen a revolt among shareholders in vote proposals. Chevron, DuPont de Nemours, and ConocoPhillips have all seen their shareholders issue rebukes to management by voting in favor of various proposals centered on climate change, Bloomberg highlighted.
Two board seats on Exxon remain undecided, and one or both of them could still potentially be awarded to Engine No. 1. Whether Woods will take the advice of the new board members and pivot towards a greener future remains to be seen.