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Rockefellers gain support in ExxonMobil governance spat

The Rockefeller family has gained support in its cause to split the role of chairman and CEO at ExxonMobil. Nineteen institutional investors – including some of ExxonMobil's largest shareowners – are voting next week to urge ExxonMobil to address climate change risks and opportunities and to separate the chairman and CEO positions.

With more than 91 million shares and $8.6 billion worth of Exxon Mobil stock, disgruntled shareholders include key US pension funds such as the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), the New York State Common Retirement Fund, and the New York City Retirement System.

"ExxonMobil's go-slow approach in addressing greenhouse gas reductions and investments in renewable energy sources places long-term shareholder value at risk," said California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who serves on the board of pension funds CalPERS and CalSTRS. "Instead of dragging its feet, Exxon should be taking the lead in providing long-term climate solutions."

The Rockefellers, who are long-term shareholders of the company, held a rare press conference last month to voice their concerns over how it was being run. Writing in today's Financial Times newspaper, Peter O'Neill and Neva Rockefeller Goodwin (pictured), descendants of founder John D Rockefeller, said the company was already falling behind with regard to a long-term view and addressing climate change.

"Having an independent chairman is the surest way to help address these challenges, to enable the company to promote a deeper, broader review of ExxonMobil's core strengths and weaknesses, and identify opportunities for increasing long-term shareowner value," they said.

The investors will be voting on four key climate-related shareholder resolutions, as well as a separate proxy item to split the CEO and chairman jobs.  The resolutions will be voted on at the ExxonMobil annual meeting on 28 May.

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