U.S. regulator rules out Exxon shareholder vote on climate resolution

A logo of the Exxon Mobil Corp is seen at the Rio Oil and Gas Expo and Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

(Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp is not required to let its shareholders vote on setting greenhouse gas targets, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Tuesday, agreeing with the company’s request to reject the proposal.

Exxon in late January asked the SEC for permission to bar a shareholder submission calling on the company to set emissions targets beginning next year that “aligned with the greenhouse gas reduction goals established by the Paris climate agreement.”

Exxon argued the resolution was misleading, substantially implemented and an attempt to interfere with its management responsibilities.

“The proposal would micromanage the company by seeking to impose specific methods for implementing complex policies in place of the ongoing judgments of management,” SEC Special Counsel Courtney Haseley wrote.

An Exxon spokesman declined to comment on the decision, and pointed to the company’s letter to the SEC for its rationale.

Church Commissioners for England and the New York State comptroller’s office, which submitted the proposal and previously submitted other climate-change resolutions to the company, said they are considering their next steps.

“The SEC’s ruling is a bump in the road, but as long-term investors determined to protect the value of our portfolio, we are not going away. We will continue to press Exxon, and others, on climate risk and consider all options available to us in our next steps,” New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement.

The group could seek to modify and resubmit the proposal before the 2020 annual meeting, appeal the SEC ruling, or call on shareholders to vote against Exxon directors. The company has not disclosed a date for its annual general meeting, which is typically held in late May.

Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Susan Thomas and David Gregorio