A group of more than 30 asset owners and managers, representing $2,500bn in assets under management, have issued a joint statement to condemn the decision by ExxonMobil to ask a judge to block a proposed shareholder resolution from shareholder advocacy group Follow This.

In the resolution, which has since been withdrawn, Follow This and US sustainability investor Arjuna Capital call on ExxonMobil to accelerate the pace of emission reductions in the medium-term across Scopes 1, 2 and 3, and to “summarise new plans, targets, and timetables”.

In their statement, the investors – which include Swedish pension funds Alecta, AP2, AP3, AP4 and AP7 and Dutch pension giants APG and PGGM – argue that involving a judge in evaluating shareholder proposals “undermines the current system of shareholder advocacy in the US”.

Instead, they believe the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “should continue to be the preferred arbiter of shareholder proposals”, as the regulator “is best placed to lead discussions between companies and investors, including on how to improve the proposal process”.

“We want to protect the right of shareholders to use their vote to decide for themselves when a proposal, sustainability-related or otherwise, is in their best interests and that of their stakeholders,” the investors argued.

“If there are process or quality-related concerns, we encourage corporate leaders to collaborate with filers to improve their proposal rather than pursue a costly and drawn-out process to obstruct them,” they continued.

“If a company assesses that a certain shareholder proposal negatively affects business operations, it can go to the SEC and state under that rule why it thinks this shareholder proposal should not be on the proxy statement. This system has worked well so far,” said Asimwe Ruganyoisa, responsible investment startegy and partnerships manager at APG, in an interview published on the website of the Dutch pension asset manager.

Ruganyoisa noted that such lawsuits have so far been incidental. “But we don’t want it to become a trend and that’s why as investors we have made this public statement.”


The statement’s signatories, which are not all investors in ExxonMobil, as some of them have divested from the firm for ESG reasons, are not the first investors to openly criticise ExxonMobil’s actions.

Last week, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund manager Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) announced it would vote against one member of Exxon’s board of directors because of the lawsuit.

Achmea Investment Management, a Dutch fiduciary manager that also signed the statement, will vote against the entire board at Exxon’s annual general meeting later today, a spokesperson told IPE. “We would have done so anyway because of Exxon’s insufficient climate action, but the lawsuit is an extra motivation for us,” he said.

Mark van Baal, the founder of Follow This, welcomed the statement. “It shows a large concern among investors about Exxon’s decision to circumvent the SEC and sue its shareholders to prevent a vote about emissions reductions,” he told IPE.

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