Illustration; Source: ExxonMobil

Activist firm calls for ousting of four ExxonMobil board members

Activist firm Engine No. 1 has named directors it wants shareholders to remove from the board of directors of ExxonMobil at the oil major’s upcoming annual general meeting.

Illustration; Source: ExxonMobil

Engine No. 1, which has nominated four independent director candidates to the ExxonMobil board of directors, singled out for the removal of three former chief executives of prominent U.S. companies and the former CEO of Malaysia’s oil firm Petronas Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin who joined the board last month.

The company asked shareholders on Monday to vote against the re-election of former MetLife CEO Steven Kandarian, former Caterpillar CEO Douglas Oberhelman, former IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano, and Wan Zulkiflee.

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The three U.S. executives “have destroyed shareholder value and generated significant long-term risk for investors“, Engine No. 1 said. Regarding the naming of Wan Zulkiflee, the company said that the appointment was “not as relevant for a public company in need of transformative and successful energy experience“.

The company also noted that Zulkiflee’s experience was in many ways duplicative, given that ExxonMobil has an operational partnership with Petronas since 1976 and operates production sharing contracts with Petronas that produce one fifth of Malaysia’s oil production and half of its gas production.

All four nominated directors by Engine No. 1 were ruled out by ExxonMobil. The company nominated Gregory J. Goff, a man who generated a 1,224 per cent return for shareholders as the CEO of Andeavor. Kaisa Hietala helped transform the refining company Neste into the world’s largest and most profitable producer of renewable fuel while Anders Runevad generated a 480 per cent return for shareholders as the CEO of Vestas Wind Systems.

The fourth man, Alexander Karsner, has decades of conventional and renewable energy experience and was also a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy.

The focus of Engine No. 1 is obviously on renewables and the transition of ExxonMobil. In late February, the company claimed that ExxonMobil was falling short of what was expected regarding reaching climate goals set by the company.

In response, ExxonMobil spokesman Casey Norton told Reuters that a board committee considered Engine No. 1’s candidates and ruled them out.

We categorically disagree with Engine No. 1’s assertions about our board, including the directors they have targeted“, Norton stated.

ExxonMobil directors, according to him, “have experience leading some of the world’s largest, most complex and successful companies and bring to the board a wide range of backgrounds, knowledge and skills relevant to the company’s business and future direction – unlike the Engine No. 1 candidates“.