New York’s Comptroller has new tactic to help ExxonMobil evolve

DiNapoli.Thomas

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli

Shareholder resolutions haven’t worked, so after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is trying a new tactic to force the ExxonMobil to adopt an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy.

In the past, DiNapoli has filed shareholder resolutions with ExxonMobil. As the sole trustee of the state’s $160 billion pension fund, he has some clout among many companies whose stock is in the fund. He has successfully negotiated changes in policies at about 30 of them.

As head of the pension fund, he uses the business argument. If ExxonMobil discriminates by not offering benefits to same-sex married couples, while Shell, Chevron and BP offer the benefits, then the company is shrinking its employee pool and hurting the value of the stock the state owns. New York controls more than $1 billion in ExxonMobil stock.

—  David Taffet

SEC turns down ExxonMobil’s bid to block shareholder resolution

Protest at 2010 ExxonMobil shareholder's meeting in Dallas

The Securities and Exchange Commission rejected an attempt by ExxonMobil to block a shareholder resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the company’s equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy.

The resolution was proposed this year by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on behalf of the state’s pension funds, which own ExxonMobil stock.

Mobil was one of the first companies to offer benefits to its LGBT employees. That company was also a pioneer in banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and had that policy in place for more than a decade before the merger.

Nondiscrimination and benefits were taken away when it merged with Exxon in 1999. At the shareholder meeting held annually at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, an attempt has been made to restore those benefits. The number of shareholders voting for the resolution has increased each year.

At last year’s meeting, votes representing more than 500 million shares supported equality.

The company received a –25 percent score on the Human Right’s Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index last year, the first time a company scored a negative rating. Other oil companies such as Shell, Chevron and BP receive an 85 percent or higher rating. As of 2012, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their EEO policy and 50 percent include gender identity.

—  David Taffet