Feds tell Exxon Mobil to allow climate change vote

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Exxon Mobil Corp. must allow its shareholds to vote on a proposal to receive more information about climate change’s impact on the oil giant’s business.

The Securities and Exchange Commission told Exxon this week that it must include the resolution among the slate of proposals shareholders will vote on in May, Reuters reported Thursday. The proposal would have the company outline the way climate change and energy legislation impact its ability to operate profitably.

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"It does not appear that Exxon Mobil's public disclosures compare favorably with the guidelines of the proposal," an SEC official wrote in a letter to the company.

Exxon has previously defended its climate change disclosures, saying it’s already giving its shareholders enough information about climate change’s impact on business. The company declined to comment on the SEC’s letter to Reuters.

The climate change resolution comes from New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who said shareholders — including pensioners in his state — need more information on climate change’s impact on the oil industry.

"Investors need to know if Exxon Mobil is taking necessary steps to prepare for a lower carbon future, particularly now in the wake of the Paris [climate change] agreement," DiNapoli said in a statement.

Exxon shareholders have historically been hostile to climate-related resolutions. Last year, they rejected a proposal to set company goals for greenhouse gas reduction, appoint a climate expert to the board and file a report on the impact of Exxon’s hydraulic fracturing activities.

The new climate vote will come as Exxon faces scrutiny for its climate change research, including a legal investigation into whether the company misled the public about the risks of climate change. The oil industry has said the news reports underpinning that investigation are “deeply flawed.”