Investors who co-filed a climate shareholder resolution at ExxonMobil have withdrawn their proposal but the company is continuing to sue them.

Dutch campaign group Follow This and US sustainability investor Arjuna Capital had filed the shareholder resolution to try to get the oil and gas firm to improve its target-setting for emission reductions.

The company responded by filing a court case in Texas to try to prevent the proposal, which is with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) for review, from having to be voted on at its annual general meeting in May.

Follow This and Arjuna Capital have now withdrawn their proposal. Natasha Lamb, chief investment officer at Arjuna, said Exxon was not only sidestepping “a critical corporate accountability mechanism” but resorting to “tactics of intimidation and bullying”.

“We’ve withdrawn the proposal and there is no basis for Exxon to continue this attack,” she said. “Diversified investors seeking to mitigate material climate risk expect better from the company.”

Companies typically seek to exclude shareholder proposals by filing ’no-action’ requests with the SEC and Exxon has previously been successful by going down this route. 

Exxon, however, considers the shareholder proposal process to be “broken”, allowing activists to advance narrow agendas that are not in investors’ interests.

“We are simply asking the court to apply the SEC’s proxy rules as written to stop this abuse and eliminate the significant resources required to address them,” it said in a previous statement.

In a fresh statement it said it was no longer critical to expedite the court hearing because the shareholder proposal had been withdrawn, but that “we believe there are still important issues for the court to resolve”.

“There is no change to our plans, the [law]suit is continuing, and we’re evaluating our options.”

ExxonMobil’s AGM is scheduled for 29 May. European asset owners previously contacted by IPE indicated they were unimpressed by Exxon’s decision to turn to the courts and would be considering how they might react.

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