Control over one-third of ExxonMobil’s board of directors was captured by climate activists at the recent annual shareholder meeting.
Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins dismissed the astonishing accomplishment as a “pseudo-event” — one “arranged or brought about merely for the sake of the publicity it generates.”
That is just wrong.
The oil giant has now contracted a chronic management-level cancer that may very well spread and be fatal in just a few years – not only to ExxonMobil’s oil business but to our (relatively) free-market economy, standard of living, and political system.
First, it’s important to note that the activists don’t actually own one-third of ExxonMobil.
But they are able to exert that much control over the company because acting through ideologically aligned institutional investors, they have now succeeded in installing four of ExxonMobil’s 12 board members.
Keep in mind that the institutional investors don’t even really own ExxonMobil for themselves but rather own it on behalf of pension plans and other investors who don’t necessarily align with the institutional investors’ left-wing politics.
The climate activists did not get their agents elected to ExxonMobil’s board for publicity purposes as Jenkins suggests or, as they advertise, to save ExxonMobil from being stuck in the oil business as the world moves to save the planet with green energy.
Climate has always has been about political power. UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher promoted climate alarm in the 1980s as a means of breaking the death grip coal miners had on the British economy.
President Obama, whose policies drove the destruction of 95 percent of the coal industry market value from 2011-2016, didn’t destroy the coal industry during the 2010s to improve the climate.
He destroyed it because it was a well-moneyed and powerful political force standing in the way of his radical socialist agenda. And at any climate protest nowadays, you will see people carrying signs that proclaim, “System Change, Not Climate Change.”
The left-wing activists leading today’s radical climate movement aren’t stupid people. They know that even if there were no ExxonMobil, global emissions would still be increasing with no end in sight.
They know nothing happens in our world without fossil fuels. They’ve heard of China. And they know that the U.S. could stop emitting today and forever and it would not matter to climate. Even President Biden and his climate envoy John Kerry have both publicly admitted this.
Since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, leftists shave been looking to spread their revolution. It what’s they spend their full-time jobs doing.
While they have had a mixed track record in capturing and permanently seizing nations (e.g., the Soviet Union failed but Communist China is alive and kicking), they have had a fairly steady track record of infiltrating and capturing U.S. institutions – think unions, universities, charities and just about everything else.
Leftists are focused, disciplined, persistent, and patient. They plan and execute their plans well.
In his 2004 book, “Biz-War and the Out-of-Power Elite: The Progressive-Left Attack on the Corporation,” George Washington University professor Jarol Mannheim described how wealthy left-wing activists got together after the 1980 election of President Ronald Reagan to plan their attack to capture and turn corporations into tools of the left.
Fast forward 40 years and we can see how this has worked out. From corporate media to Big Tech to professional sports to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and beyond, left-wing activists have had incredible success in steadily infiltrating, capturing, and turning large brand-name businesses to their own political ends.
Just look at how big companies have funded and participated in political issues like race, gender, COVID, and election reform.
But as a hostile takeover, ExxonMobil is their boldest effort to date.
ExxonMobil management has been trying to appease the climate movement since 2006 when Rex Tillerson took over as CEO. ExxonMobil now claims to support a carbon tax and the Paris climate accord.
But it has never lobbied for either very hard and it has certainly never taken its eye off the ball of profiting immensely from producing oil. As recently as 2020, Tillerson’s successor Darren Woods stated quite clearly that ExxonMobil planned to sell all the oil it could to meet the ever-increasing demand.
This year, though, the activists mobilized enough institutional shareholder support to prevail in placing like-minded directors on ExxonMobil’s board.
As more directors retire or directors come up for re-election as soon as next year, the activists and their institutional shareholder allies will be able to actually take control of the company.
But it’s not that the activists will shut down ExxonMobil’s oil production when they do gain control. After all, even their vision of a socialist future will require serious energy, that is fossil fuels.
But until they acquire permanent power, they will turn ExxonMobil’s profitable business and resources into a machine for more power-grabbing left-wing politics – just as corporate media, Big Tech, pro sports and the rest do now.
I would like to think that the two-thirds of the ExxonMobil board not controlled by the climate activists will awake from its stupor and its failed appeasement strategy, and take action to save the company from the activists.
But they will need to do so before the 2022 shareholder meeting.
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