ExxonMobil Corp.'s new CEO Rex Tillerson took it on the chin from disgruntled shareholders last week as he listened to complaints about high fuel prices, exorbitant executive pay, underfunded pension plans and lack of a clear policy on alternative energy. But in the end, the protests -- loud but mostly polite -- failed to make much of a difference.
All of the 12 ExxonMobil board members, running unopposed, were reelected. All of the environmentally related and discrimination proposals were defeated. However, a majority of shareholders managed to pass a proposal to require a majority vote, rather than a plurality, to elect directors in the future -- a move opposed by the company.
Tillerson, sounding much like his predecessor Lee Raymond, began the meeting by reiterating ExxonMobil's record profits -- and ensuring shareholders the company had their best interests at heart.
"Interest in our industry is very high today with the rise in commodity prices, concerns about energy supplies, and the focus on our company's earnings," Tillerson said. "The level of misinformation only makes it more important to discuss the massive scale of our industry and the meaningful alternatives available in the foreseeable future."
After Tillerson spoke, shareholders lined up to give him an earful, mostly about former CEO Raymond.
In May, Institutional Shareholders Services, a proxy service, urged investors not to cast votes for some directors. The North Carolina Retirement Systems also called for its members to withhold votes for five nominees to protest Raymond's retirement package. Raymond retired from the company in December after reportedly making more than $686 million between 1993 and 2005, and taking home more than $400 million in the final year of his contract.
"We are outraged that executives are using soaring gas prices, which are hitting consumers at the pump, to fatten their own wallets," said Richard Moore, North Carolina's state treasurer. "The excessive pay packages, like that seen at ExxonMobil, diminish shareholder value and are evidence of policies that fail to generate long-term value for shareholders."
Applause erupted when one shareholder compared ExxonMobil to the disgraced Enron Corp. He said Raymond should return half of his compensation package to set an example to the rest of the "overpaid" executives in the industry. Another shareholder, Sydney Kay, called for an overhaul of ExxonMobil's board, calling it a "puppet, flunkey, rubber stamper" overpaid group.
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