Sustainability Blog

Watchdog Wants Oil Extraction Advocate on Exxon Board

By Simon Johns - Sep 22, 2022

An independent ethics watchdog is using a new SEC rule to get an advocate for continued oil and gas extraction onto the ExxonMobil board. 

In a five-page letter to Exxon, the conservative National Legal and Policy Center believes its candidate, Donald van der Vaart, would “promote greater diversity.” He would also “recalibrate” the board after activist investors Engine No. 1 instigated a management shake-up. Engine No. 1’s aim was to secure shareholder value beyond oil and gas by voting for three new members who are sympathetic. The NLPC feels the three are “hostile to Exxon’s core competencies.” 

Ex-Shell chemical engineer van der Vaart would make up for lost “critical expertise and understanding of the industry,” the letter said. Exxon stock, of which the NLPC owns, has risen to U.S. $90.95 from $59.45 in June 2021, when the three joined. 

The new SEC new rule makes it easier for shareholders to nominate candidates to corporate boards using proxy voting cards. It allows shareholders to pit their candidates against those nominated by the board. NLPC’s proposal goes to Exxon’s Board Affairs Committee. If that committee votes for van der Vaart, his candidacy goes before the board. The board then decides if he will be on the shareholder ballot at the 2023 annual meeting. 

“He is an eminently qualified scientist, engineer and lawyer. His candidacy should be a no-brainer,” said Paul Chesser, director of NLPC’s Corporate Integrity Project.

Van der Vaart was North Carolina’s Secretary for the Department of Environmental Quality. During his tenure, he clashed with the U.S. EPA and called for its abolition, despite aspiring to become its director, according to North Carolina Policy Watch

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