Judge dismisses Exxon case against activist group Arjuna


US District Court Judge Mark Pittman ruled Exxon’s claim was no longer valid after Arjuna “unconditionally and irrevocably” agreed not to submit a future proposal regarding Exxon’s greenhouse gas emissions. — Reuters

HOUSTON: A United States judge dismissed a lawsuit Exxon Mobil had filed against activist group Arjuna Capital after the group had agreed not to pursue future proxy filings at the company’s annual meetings.

The lawsuit by the largest US oil company had raised alarm among activists and public pension investors who argued it would muzzle debate among shareholders and public companies.

US District Court Judge Mark Pittman ruled Exxon’s claim was no longer valid after Arjuna “unconditionally and irrevocably” agreed not to submit a future proposal regarding Exxon’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The court cannot advise Exxon of its rights without a live case or controversy to trigger jurisdiction” and Arjuna’s pledge not to file a similar resolution in the future “has eliminated any case or controversy”, Pittman wrote.

Pittman’s dismissal was without prejudice, meaning Exxon could refile its case in the future.

An Exxon spokesperson declined immediate comment. Arjuna did not respond to requests for comment.

Arjuna and Follow This, a Netherlands-based environmental group, had proposed a resolution calling on stockholders to request the oil major set new targets for reducing some of its greenhouse gas emissions.

Exxon sued the pair in January and refused to drop the case after they agreed not to bring the petition forward, citing “the likelihood” the two could file similar resolutions in the future. Pittman last month had dropped Follow This from the case as the group was outside his court’s jurisdiction.

“Unfortunately, we expect the company to continue this aggressive agenda rather than returning to their past practice of constructive dialogue with their owners,” said Tim Smith, a senior policy adviser for the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility, whose members include Arjuna.

While investors likely will be relieved by the dismissal, Exxon “used the proxy and the shareholder meeting to denigrate any proponents presenting resolutions as well as challenging the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the proxy process,” Smith said, reiterating concerns raised by the shareholder advocacy group earlier this year. — Reuters

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