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If you thought the beef between Brooks and Bryson was spicy, you should check out the boardroom blowout at ExxonMobil. Following a vote at the company's shareholder meeting yesterday, the activist investment firm Engine No. 1 won at least two of the four board seats it was aiming for. This could mean monumental changes for the US' largest oil producer.
The backstory: In December, Engine No. 1, then a brand new hedge fund, bought ~$40 million of Exxon shares-just 0.02% of the company-and sent a letter to the board with a simple request: Invest in clean energy, or else. The firm wants CEO Darren Woods to commit to bringing Exxon's carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
Woods's response: No. He thinks the company's more incremental steps to address climate concerns, such as investing billions into carbon-capture tech, are sufficient.
What followed was a fight in which both sides spent a combined $65 million convincing shareholders to vote for their preferred board members.
How can an investor with only 0.02% have that much power?
Like Glacier Freeze Gatorade, Exxon's financial performance ain't what it used to be. Former CEO Rex Tillerson and now Woods presided over a "decade of value destruction," Engine No. 1 claimed, rallying some bigger shareholders to its side.
Then, the pandemic obliterated oil demand, and Exxon posted a $22 billion loss last year, its first ever annual loss as a public company. After almost a century in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Exxon was booted from the index in August (though its share price has rebounded ~47% in the past six months).
As if there weren't enough ????emojis in the Big Oil group chat yesterday, Shell was hit with a historic L of its own. A Dutch court ordered the oil giant to cut emissions 45% from 2019 levels by 2030, more than double what it originally projected.
What we learned yesterday: If oil companies refuse to make a green transition on their own, outside interests will make sure they do.
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