Vanguard says it supported Exxon board, but cites concerns over investor rights

By Ross Kerber

(Reuters) – Vanguard said its funds supported the election of Exxon director nominees at its annual meeting last week, but the mutual fund giant cited lingering concerns about the lawsuit by the energy company against climate activists.

The company’s 12 directors were re-elected at the company’s annual meeting on May 29, including Exxon Chairman Darren Woods and lead director Joseph Hooley. Both groups faced opposition from environmental activists after Exxon refused to end its lawsuit against supporters of a climate measure at the meeting, even after they dropped it.

Vanguard, based in Pennsylvania, cited Exxon’s decision in a recent memo posted on its website.

“While the company’s decision to pursue litigation gives us some pause given the potential chilling effect on future shareholder proposals, we do not see, at this time, evidence that the board ( Exxon) oversaw actions that negatively impacted shareholder returns,” Vanguard wrote.

A Vanguard spokesperson declined further comment.

An Exxon representative said the sponsor of the since-withdrawn resolution “has not admitted that its proposal violated SEC rules. This is the issue at the heart of our lawsuit: seeking to clarify the proxy rules of the SEC… and thus foster an environment for open and meaningful shareholder dialogue.”

(Reporting by Ross Kerber; editing by Richard Chang)

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