Exxon Mobil will face a big challenge over its climate change policies at an annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday as activists contest the election of one-third of the company’s board.
These investors argue that the company should follow European oil companies like BP and Total that have begun investing heavily in renewables like wind and solar energy.
The hedge fund leading this campaign, Engine No. 1, is seeking to defeat the election of four of the company’s director candidates and has proposed four of its own. A victory for even one of its nominees would be a sharp rebuke to Darren W. Woods, Exxon’s chairman and chief executive. Some big pension funds, including the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, have joined Engine No. 1, which was started last year.
“We listen, and we hear,” Mr. Woods said in an interview in which he tried to take a conciliatory tone. “We don’t always agree, but we always understand there is an opportunity to improve.”
Exxon has argued that its investments in carbon capture and storage, including a proposal to capture the emissions from industrial plants along the Houston Ship Channel, demonstrate that the company is changing in its approach to climate change. This week, it announced that it would add two new directors to the board, including a climate expert, but it has not committed to investing in renewable energy.
Engine No. 1 dismissed the move, saying, “This vote is too important to be influenced by this type of cynical, last-minute maneuvering.”
Amazon’s investors are gathering virtually on Wednesday for the company’s annual shareholder meeting. There is much to discuss, according to the DealBook newsletter: good, bad and ugly (from the perspective of Amazon’s management).
The e-commerce giant’s bumper profits are likely to be overshadowed by three major developments: Reports that the company is about to make an expensive bet on the Hollywood studio MGM, a series of shareholder proposals that company directors don’t want to pass and an antitrust suit filed against the company that landed on Tuesday.
Amazon is said to be considering spending $9 billion to acquire MGM, which would buy classic films like “Rocky” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” as well as the James Bond franchise. If a deal is reached, approval from regulators would rest on Amazon’s argument that it’s a small player in entertainment. (Lina Khan, a nominee for the F.T.C. who is awaiting Senate confirmation, made her name with a paper about Amazon’s alleged antitrust abuses.)
The backers of several shareholder proposals, all opposed by Amazon’s management, say their aim is to make the company a better corporate citizen, reacting to accusations of labor and environmental abuses. New York State’s pension fund is calling on Amazon to conduct an independent racial equity audit of its practices related to civil rights, equity, diversity and inclusion. (Calls for racial audits have been a feature at many shareholder meetings recently.)
Another proposal would bar Jeff Bezos from leading Amazon’s board after he steps down as chief executive this year.
The District of Columbia sued Amazon on Tuesday, accusing the company of effectively prohibited sellers on its site from charging lower prices for the same products elsewhere, which raised prices on Amazon and beyond. “Amazon has used its dominant position in the online retail market to win at all costs,” said Karl Racine, the district’s attorney general.
It is believed to be the first antitrust suit against Amazon by an American government authority, but because it is based on local rather than federal law, its effect could be limited even if successful. Nonetheless, Mr. Racine’s argument “is both old-school and novel, and it might become a blueprint for crimping Big Tech power,” wrote Shira Ovide, The Times’s On Tech columnist.
The chief executives of the six biggest American lenders will testify before the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday, the first time the committee has summoned all the top bankers since the financial crisis of 2008. (They will also appear at the House Committee on Financial Services on Thursday, for the first time since 2019.)
At the Senate hearing, Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio and the committee’s chairman, has promised to press the bank chiefs on a range of subjects, sending them a list of questions on topics including the riskiness of their assets, the diversity of their work forces, actions on climate change, pledges on racial equity and more. It could make for a disjointed hearing as senators veer from issue to issue, trying to catch the chief executives off guard or unprepared.
Their prepared testimonies address the committee’s questions in varying depth and detail, while all make the case that their institutions are healthier, safer and more law-abiding since 2008.
Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase turned in a nine-page paper urging business, government and society to address inequities and “unleash the extraordinary vibrancy of the American economy.”
Jane Fraser of Citigroup prepared 11 pages (and a three-page addendum with data and tables) that note her bank’s approach to cryptocurrencies, saying that it is “focusing resources and efforts to understand changes in the digital asset space.”
James Gorman of Morgan Stanley assembled a 20-page report with few frills that includes a short introduction and responses to each question in order.
Brian Moynihan of Bank of America had the most to say, with 32 pages that devote a lot of space to the bank’s “responsible growth” principles. “We embrace our dual responsibility to drive both profits and purpose,” he wrote.
U.S. stocks were expected to rise on Wednesday and a benchmark European index climbed to a record high and then fell.
The S&P 500 was set to open 0.4 percent higher when Wall Street starts trading.
Oil prices fell. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, dropped 0.3 percent to $65.86 a barrel.
‘Transitory’ inflation in Europe
The Stoxx Europe 600 slipped 0.1 percent after hitting a fresh record earlier on Wednesday. The euro fell 0.1 percent against the U.S. dollar to $1.22.
Fabio Panetta, a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank, said on Wednesday that “‘we are currently seeing a transitory increase in inflation,” adding his voice to the chorus of central bankers arguing that price increases are temporary and there is no current need to pull back monetary stimulus. Mr. Panetta said that the central bank did not need to reduce the pace of its bond-buying program.
Over the next two years, the European Central Bank forecasts the annual inflation rate to be no more than 1.4 percent, below the bank’s 2 percent target.
“We should not extrapolate from what is happening in the United States,” Mr. Panetta said in the interview published by the central bank. “We don’t expect the same kind of surging demand and tight labor markets that would generate stronger lasting price pressures.”
The chief executives of six major American banks, including Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, will appear before a Senate congressional committee on Wednesday and then a House committee on Thursday. They are expected to answer questions on everything from the riskiness of their banks’ assets to work force diversity. They have already submitted written testimonies.
Shares at British Land, a major landowner and property developer, dropped 1.8 percent after the company said its profit dropped by more than a third in the year to March as its portfolio value fell nearly 11 percent because of drop in the value of retail properties. British Land said it also sold 1.2 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) of retail and office spaces over the year.
Marks & Spencer shares rose 6.7 percent as the retailer said it expected to generate a profit of as much as £350 million this fiscal year, swinging back from a loss of more than £200 million. The company, which sells food, clothing and housewares, has benefited from a recent partnership with Ocado, the online groceries retailer.
Australians will have some of the best views of the “super blood moon” this week, but passengers on a one-time flight departing from Sydney had an even better one. The Australian airline Qantas operated a three-hour flight on Wednesday (Tuesday evening in the United States) for about 100 passengers to see the moon enter the Earth’s shadow and turn a blood red color during a total lunar eclipse. Tickets went on sale this month for 499 Australian dollars (about $386) for economy class and 1,499 Australian dollars (about $1,162) for business class. The tickets sold out in less than half an hour.
Fox News entered the streaming video market in November 2018 with Fox Nation, a digital subscription service that now encompasses hundreds of hours of original programming including political commentary, documentaries and travel specials like “Castles USA,” in which the host Jeanine Pirro tours castles around the country.
Until now, the network had resisted rebroadcasting its marquee prime-time shows on the streaming service. That is set to change next week, in a significant shift in digital strategy for the Rupert Murdoch-owned channel.
Starting June 2, episodes of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” “Hannity” and “The Ingraham Angle” will be available on demand on Fox Nation the day after they are shown live on cable. The shift “will add incredible value for subscribers,” Fox Nation’s president, Jason Klarman, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Fox News had reasons to initially avoid duplicating its traditional TV programming on Fox Nation. The channel earns significant revenue from cable distributors that pay to carry Fox News. And the network has the largest total weeknight audience in cable news; viewers who switch over to watch the programs on Fox Nation will not be counted by Nielsen.
Other networks, though, have seen benefits from making their cable programs available in digital venues. The shows can attract new subscribers and widen their viewership to the younger audiences that prefer streaming services.
A monthly subscription to Fox Nation costs $6. The network has declined to share its total number of subscribers. Lachlan Murdoch, the executive chairman of the Fox Corporation, said on a recent earnings call that the first quarter of 2021 had generated Fox Nation’s “highest number of customer acquisitions since launch.”
The District of Columbia claimed in a complaint on Tuesday that the giant online marketplace is artificially raising prices for products by abusing its monopoly power.
The legal action is believed to be the first government antitrust suit against Amazon in the United States, report The New York Times’s David McCabe, Karen Weise and Cecilia Kang.
Here’s what you need to know:
What D.C. says
“Amazon has used its dominant position in the online retail market to win at all costs,” said Karl Racine, the attorney general for the District of Columbia. “It maximizes its profits at the expense of third-party sellers and consumers, while harming competition, stifling innovation and illegally tilting the playing field in its favor.”
What Amazon says
Mr. Racine “has it exactly backwards — sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in our store,” Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for Amazon, said in a statement. She added that Amazon reserved the right “not to highlight offers to customers that are not priced competitively.”
The big picture
Amazon has attracted attention from critics because of the sweeping nature of its business. It operates a dominant web hosting operation and a streaming platform that competes with Netflix and Hulu, and it expanded into brick-and-mortar grocery stores with the 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods. But the lawsuit filed by Mr. Racine, a Democrat, concerns the core of its business: the online marketplace for outside merchants that accounts for more than half of the products it sells.