BlackRock will vote for three candidates for Exxon Mobil’s board of directors who were nominated by an activist hedge fund, Reuters reports. All the candidates are opposed by Exxon leadership. BlackRock is the world’s largest fund manager, and its decision to support the three board nominees illustrates shareholder dissatisfaction with Exxon’s failure to keep pace with other oil majors’ steps to address climate change. With a 6.7% stake, BlackRock is Exxon’s second-largest investor. The candidates were nominated by Engine No. 1, a relatively tiny hedge fund (holding just 0.02% of Exxon’s market cap) that has punched far above its weight in its criticism of the once practically omnipotent oil giant.
BlackRock’s support for three of Engine No. 1’s four nominees could, experts said, influence the votes of Vanguard (Exxon’s largest shareholder with an 8.3% stake) and State Street (third largest with a 5.7% stake). Those firms have been less willing to back dissident investors in the past, however. Preliminary results will likely be announced Wednesday morning after the meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT. (BlackRock vote: Reuters; Boardroom election showdown: New York Times $, Houston Chronicle, Wall Street Journal $; Engine No. 1: Politico; Commentary: Reuters, Richard Beales analysis)