(Adds comment from proponent, details on BlackRock talks with
By Ross Kerber
BOSTON May 12 BlackRock Inc said on Friday that
it voted in favor of a successful shareholder proposal calling
for more climate change reporting by Occidental Petroleum Corp
, in the first sign the world's largest asset manager was
backing up its tough new talk on environmental matters.
Backers of the resolution called its passage a major
victory, the first time such a measure succeeded at a major U.S.
oil and gas company. Proponents said they were pleased by
BlackRock's support, which they had sought.
"Today’s historic vote puts the oil and gas industry on
notice – the climate is changing and so are investor
expectations of how companies should respond," said Laura
Campos, a director at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, one of the
BlackRock, which has $5.4 trillion under management,
traditionally has given few details of its reasoning behind
specific proxy votes. On Friday, however, it said it was
concerned about Occidental’s pace of disclosure to date. It also
gave details about its talks with other companies such as
Chevron Corp, which BlackRock said has provided more
detail on climate risks it faces such as a recent report it
A Chevron representative said the company would continue
speaking with investors, and that it had held “extensive
dialogue with proponents and other stockholders."
BlackRock spokesman Ed Sweeney said BlackRock would not
explain every vote it casts in such detail but wanted to
underscore how it promotes its corporate governance priorities
in talks with companies.
"We want to highlight our engagement and articulate our
voting decisions," he said.
Occidental Chairman Eugene Batchelder said in an emailed
statement: "We look forward to continuing our shareholder
engagement on the topic and providing additional disclosure
about the company's assessment and management of climate-related
risks and opportunities."
Major oil companies have long faced shareholder criticism
for being slow to respond to climate concerns, though some have
moved to mend fences with activists in recent years such as
ExxonMobil's decision earlier this year to name a
environmental expert to its board.
Specifically, the resolution at Occidental - which was also
backed by Wespath Investment Management and state pension funds
including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System -
called on the energy company to explain the impact it could face
from changes like new public policies on climate change, such as
the 2016 Paris climate agreement.
BlackRock, Occidental's largest investor with about 8
percent of its shares, last year had opposed a similar
resolution, which failed to get a majority of support from
In a statement sent by Sweeney explaining the switch, the
fund firm said its vote last year was meant to give Occidental
time. But despite talks with Occidental, "we remain concerned
about the lack of discernable improvements to the company's
reporting practices" on climate issues, the statement said.
Last year a similar resolution was narrowly defeated with
249 million votes cast for it and 259 million votes cast
against. The size of BlackRock's holdings suggested its switch
helped give the proposal a majority of support this year. An
Occidental spokesman said the company would provide details
about the vote in coming days.
(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and