Chevron goes after activist shareholder

Posted by Christine, December 11, 2012

Gretchen Morgenson reports in the NY Times:

PUBLIC corporations routinely tell shareholders that their views matter. The Chevron Corporation, for example, said in its 2012 proxy statement: “Your board welcomes dialogue on the topics presented in the stockholder proposals on the following pages.” So it might seem odd that last month Chevron subpoenaed one of its investors, Trillium Asset Management, which has sponsored numerous shareholder proposals at Chevron over the years. The oilcompany demanded documents related to those proposals. The subpoena also asked for records of discussions Trillium had about these proposals with the media.

It is unusual to make such a demand from a shareholder, corporate governance experts say. While companies often try to keep shareholder resolutions off the ballot by contending that they do not follow the rules, going beyond that is rare.

Trillium oversees $1 billion in assets and specializes in what is known as sustainable investing. It focuses on environmental, social and governance factors in its investments and pursues shareholder advocacy programs on these issues.

***

Chevron is entitled to be as aggressive as it likes in this court case and it may well prevail. But its actions against a shareholder are nonetheless remarkable. Timothy Smith, a vice president at Walden Asset Management, another socially oriented investment firm, said: “A shareholder making a legitimate appeal to the company doesn’t deserve this kind of counterattack.”

Read the entire story here.

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