March 22, 2012
SEC Ruling Puts DiNapoli Non-Discrimination Shareholder Resolution on ExxonMobil Ballot
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli's shareholder resolution calling on ExxonMobil to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity passed a major regulatory hurdle on Tuesday. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected ExxonMobil's request to block the shareholder resolution, clearing the way for a vote on the proposal at the company's annual shareholder meeting May 30.
"ExxonMobil is putting investors at risk by failing to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity," DiNapoli said. "ExxonMobil claims it does not have discriminatory policies but it continues to deny health benefits to same-sex couples who are married in New York State that are automatically given to married couples. I urge shareholders to support my proposal to ask ExxonMobil to end these practices and bring this company into the modern age."
As fiduciary and trustee of the $147.2 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund), DiNapoli has urged companies in which the Fund invests to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. DiNapoli said that companies that do so reap the benefit of drawing from the widest pool of talent possible to grow their business and mitigate their risk of litigation and potential reputational harm.
ExxonMobil's refusal to substantially implement a written equal employment policy allows the company to continue to deny domestic partner benefits to its employees in the United States and is in conflict with anti-discrimination and marriage equality statutes in New York State. On Tuesday, the SEC informed ExxonMobil that, "Based on the information you have presented, it appears that ExxonMobil's policies, practices and procedures do not compare favorably with the guidelines of the proposal and that ExxonMobil has not, therefore, substantially, implemented the proposal."
Under DiNapoli's leadership, the Fund has been the prime sponsor of similar shareholder resolutions with ExxonMobil since 2010. In 2011, the shareholder proposal garnered significant support, receiving votes representing over 500 million shares with a market value of more than $42.4 billion.
Since Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999, ExxonMobil has come under fire for its decision to cease offering health-care benefits for its employees' same-sex partners. Recently, the Human Rights Campaign gave ExxonMobil the lowest ranking (-25 percent) of any Fortune 500 company in its Corporate Equality Index.
The survey found that 86 percent of all Fortune 500 companies have explicit policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, 50 percent also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, and 60 percent have health benefit policies that recognize same-sex marriage (as well as established LGBT domestic partner) relationships.
Over the past three years, DiNapoli has reached agreements with 27 companies to adopt new non-discrimination policies. The Comptroller filed resolutions calling for new non-discrimination policies to be voted on at shareholder annual meetings in 2012 with the 12 Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies listed below. DiNapoli has successfully reached agreements with eight of these companies.
American Financial Group