Danish pension fund PenSam and the UK’s Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) are putting pressure on US oil giant ConocoPhillips to open up about its tax practices amid concerns about aggressive tax avoidance, according to PenSam.
The two pension funds are co-filing a shareholder resolution led by Oxfam America to be voted on at ConocoPhillips’ next annual general meeting in May 2023, the DKK179bn (€24bn) Danish pension fund said in a statement today.
Torsten Fels, chief executive officer of labour-market pension fund PenSam, said: “With the historic tax agreements of recent years, the world’s democratic countries have established how important common rules of the game in the tax field are for the global economy – and not least to combat companies’ use of tax tricks.”
PenSam would like to be the standard bearer for that message, he said.
“And so, of course, we cannot condone the fact that a company in our portfolio is deliberately bending the tax rules and does not want to be transparent about its tax practices,” said Fels.
“With the proposal, we hope to be able to create the necessary openness in the company,” he said.
The resolution, published by Oxfam, said shareholders requested ConocoPhillips’ board of directors to issue a tax transparency report, prepared in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Tax Standard, and including disclosure of payments to governments.
PenSam said there were indications of irresponsible tax practice at ConocoPhillips, and that this “both contradicts the OECD code and recommendations for good tax behaviour and goes directly against PenSam’s tax policy and fundamental values”.
The ConocoPhillips resolution is one of three Oxfam filed last week to US oil companies. It also targeted ExxonMobil and Chevron, according to a statement from the US branch of the international charity.
“Exxon, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips’s threadbare tax disclosures leave investors, watchdog groups, and the general public in the dark about the companies’ secretive tax practices,” said Daniel Mulé, policy lead on extractive industries and tax at Oxfam America.
Lars Koch, general secretary of Oxfam IBIS in Denmark, said the Nordic country lost DKK8bn in corporate tax to tax havens every year, and that developing countries’ losses were even greater.
“We cannot live with companies like ConocoPhillips running away from their tax bill while people everywhere struggle with inflation, the climate crisis and rising poverty,” he said, in PenSam’s statement.
A spokesman for ConocoPhillips confirmed to IPE that the firm had received a shareholder proposal from Oxfam. ”As with all shareholder proposals, we will review in accordance with our annual process for preparing proxy materials ahead of our 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders,” he said.
”ConocoPhillips remains committed to following all applicable disclosure rules in the countries in which we operate,” the spokesman said, and refered to the company’s global tax policy published on its website.
IPE has contacted Greater Manchester Combined Authority for comment.
PenSam also said it had taken aim at online retail heavyweight Amazon this spring to demand more openness via a shareholder proposal. Although rejected, the pension fund said there had been strong backing from some shareholders, because responsible taxation had gained more and more traction in the social debate of recent years.
The Danish pension fund said it was already in dialogue with ConocoPhillips regarding the company’s CO2 challenges and climate footprint, via investor network Climate Action 100+.
GMPF recently co-filed a shareholder proposal at Cisco Systems calling for greater tax transparency, along with Ethos Foundation, Etica Funds and the Missionary Oblates.