Chevron’s 2014 annual shareholder meeting was remarkable in one respect. It was not marked by what happened. Instead it was notable by what did not happen.
This year, Chevron’s management was clearly hoping for a better reception from its shareholders regarding its legal troubles in Ecuador. Chevron even showed a new video to shareholders that underscored its narrative that the company was the victim of unscrupulous lawyers trying to perpetrate “the legal fraud of the century.” CEO John Watson even tried to suggest that shareholders should be angry with the Ecuadoran villagers suing the company and not Chevron’s own management for letting the case continue to drag on hurting the company’s coffers and reputation.
However, shareholders remained demonstrably unimpressed with management. By large, shareholders continued to vote in significant numbers for resolutions critical of the company’s conduct in Ecuador.
For instance, the shareholder resolution led by the New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli calling for a board director with environmental expertise earned essentially the same votes as the previous year. The resolution won 21.4% of shares voted in 2014 compared to 21.7% for the same resolution in 2013.
There was a drop in support for the resolution led by the Unitarian Universalist Association calling for an independent board chair. In 2012, this resolution scored 38% but this year it won 22.2%. This drop in support for this resolution was largely due to its losing the support of the proxy advisory service, ISS.
By contrast, the resolution that did win support from ISS saw an increase in shareholder support. The resolution led by Investor Voice asking for a reduction in the threshold of shareholders needed to call a special shareholder meeting actually increased its vote from 32.6% in 2013 to 34.3% in 2014.
Overall, these results demonstrated continued shareholder support for the resolutions urging corporate governance reform at Chevron citing the company’s mismanagement of its liability for oil pollution in the Ecuadoran Amazon.
Using a Chevron share price of $125, the 440,886,507 shares voted for the resolution on special shareholder meetings are worth over $55 billion. If Chevron management’s question before the meeting was how many of its investors remained critical of its legal mismanagement in Ecuador, Chevron’s shareholders came back with the clear answer: $55 billion. Any way you calculate it, it’s significant and sustained shareholder dissent.
This blog was corrected on 7/12/14 to reflect that the shareholder resolution by the Unitarian Universalist Association lost the support of the proxy advisory firm ISS and not Glass Lewis as previously stated. Glass Lewis did in fact continue to support the resolution. I regret the error.