The issue will be on the agenda at Exxon Mobil’s annual shareholder meeting next week for the 14th consecutive year. Last year the company went so far as to ask the Securities and Exchange Commission for a ruling that it needn’t keep including the proposal on its ballot, but was rejected.
The proposal, backed this year, as it has been since 2010, by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on behalf of the New York State Employees Retirement System, has never gained majority support. That’s not unusual for so-called social, political and environmental shareholder initiatives, since most institutional money managers usually decline as a matter of policy to vote against management recommendations on such issues. Still, the measure has gained as much as 38 percent of the vote, considered resounding support by the feeble standards of shareholder democracy.
That hasn’t fazed Exxon Mobil. On the contrary, as social attitudes and other corporations’ policies on the subject of gay rights have changed drastically, Exxon Mobil has moved steadily further from the mainstream, even within the energy sector. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted written nondiscrimination policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as have all the major integrated oil companies that compete with Exxon Mobil.