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Activist fund poised to take 3 seats on ExxonMobil board

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An updated tally of shareholder votes means activist fund Engine No. 1 will have three board seats after a hotly-contested campaign./AFP
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Jun 03, 2021 - 11:07 AM

NEW YORK — Activist investor fund Engine No. 1 stands poised to fill three board seats at ExxonMobil following a hotly-contested shareholder vote, the company said Wednesday.

The announcement is a victory for the fund that has pushed the company to do more to address climate change.

The oil giant, which defended its policies against criticism from Engine No. 1, released “updated preliminary results” after an earlier tally was too close to call and indicated a gain of at least two spots

The result, which still must be certified, means Engine No. 1 nominee Alexander Karsner will join fellow candidates Gregory Goff and Kaisa Hietala on the board of ExxonMobil.

The company last week announced the election of Goff and Hietala, along with that of several incumbent directors.

“We are grateful for shareholders’ careful consideration of our nominees and are excited that these three individuals will be working with the full board to help better position ExxonMobil for the long-term benefit of all shareholders,” Engine No. 1 said in a statement.

ExxonMobil Chief Executive Darren Woods said he looked forward to working with all directors “to build on the progress we’ve made to grow our long-term shareholder value and succeed in a lower-carbon future.”

Long criticized over its policies on the environment, ExxonMobil had sought to persuade shareholders of its commitment to address climate change by establishing in January a new “low carbon solutions” business to commercialize carbon capture technology and announcing two new board members in March.

But Engine No. 1 criticized those steps, saying they were insufficient to prepare the oil giant for an era when more aggressive climate mitigation policies are expected to lessen dependence on oil and natural gas.

The outcome of the vote was an indication of how climate change has become a mainstream issue for investors.

Asset management giant BlackRock voted for all three of the successful Engine No. 1 candidates, saying they would “bring the fresh perspectives and relevant transformative energy experience to the board.”

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