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Commodities

Church of England backs activist's calls for Exxon board refresh

FILE PHOTO: An Exxon gas station is seen in Houston, Texas, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

(Reuters) - Church Commissioners for England joined growing investor campaigns demanding changes at Exxon Mobil Corp and on Thursday backed calls for a board refresh and development of a strategy for the U.S. oil company’s transition to cleaner fuels.

The Church Commissioners, who manage the Church of England’s investment fund, said they were “pleased to lend their support” to proposals from new hedge fund Engine No 1 designed to “re-energise ExxonMobil”.

Exxon did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for a comment.

Engine No. 1, launched 10 days ago, sent a letter to Exxon this week outlining its plan to nominate four directors to the company’s board and asking the company to cut more costs to preserve its dividend.

Investors have been unsuccessfully pressing Exxon on climate change for years now, and the Church of England, New York state’s pension fund and Legal & General Investment Management backed a call this year to split the CEO and chairman roles at the company.

That proposal received 32.7% votes in May, down from 41% last year.

This year, however, the pressure on Exxon has risen exponentially as the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed fuel demand and sent oil prices to record lows.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported hedge fund D.E. Shaw was also pressuring Exxon to make changes and sent the company a letter this week asking it to cut costs and improve performance.

Reporting by Shariq Khan and Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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