Exxon ends restrictions on meeting shareholders

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest listed oil group, will allow shareholders to meet members of its board, as new chief executive Darren Woods moves to end restrictions that had vexed some large investors. The company said that its board had decided, “where appropriate, to engage directly with key shareholders”, adding that it understood the importance of keeping investors informed about its business. The move follows Exxon’s decision, announced last week, to bow to a shareholder vote calling for it to report on the potential impact of climate policy on its business. Exxon has until now been unusual for a leading US company in refusing to allow even its largest shareholders to meet board directors.

The company said that shareholder engagement had “always been a priority”, and last year it had “engaged with” investors holding more than 1.1bn of its shares, or about a quarter of its total equity. However, under Rex Tillerson, the previous chief executive, shareholders met investor relations executives, not board directors, and that policy continued into this year.

In May, Exxon said it had used “in-person meetings, teleconferences, group meetings and an annual webinar” to communicate with investors, but the standard practice for shareholders wanting to contact independent directors was to fill in an online form, which has a 2,000-character limit. Calpers, the California state employees’ pension fund, was one of the investors to express frustration with these arrangements.

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