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The Independent: Anger at oil chief’s $400m retirement package

Lee Raymond, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has bowed out from the oil giant with a $400m pay and retirement deal that has caused outrage among environmentalists. In his 12 years at the top of the company, Exxon has pumped an estimated six billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere and has led the opposition to action on climate change.
By Stephen Foley
Published: 01 June 2006

Investors and environmental campaigners condemned a $400m (£214m) retirement package for the boss of Exxon Mobil, the man known as the “Darth Vader of global warming” for his denial that carbon emissions cause climate change.

Protesters descended on the annual shareholder meeting of the world’s largest oil company’s in Dallas, Texas, amid fury over the lavish lifestyle that it plans to fund for Lee Raymond, who retired after 12 years as chairman and chief executive.

Exxon has been condemned by green groups for fuelling the world’s addiction to oil by opposing the Kyoto treaty on reducing emissions and refusing to invest a penny in alternative energy sources. The total amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by the production and use of Exxon’s oil and gas output is calculated at 500 million tons a year, or six billion tons during Mr Raymond’s tenure.

Since becoming chief executive in 1993, Mr Raymond had become infamous for his dismissive response to environmental lobbyists at previous annual meetings. He has funnelled $19m of Exxon’s money to groups that question the science of global warming. His package of pension and perks includes a bodyguard, a car and driver, and use of a company jet, plus a $1m-a-year deal to stay on as a consultant.

Exxon says the value of the package is at least $258m, which comes on top of a retirement bonus of $98.4m. This largesse makes his salary and bonus for 2005, $49m, look modest by comparison, but it was still one of the biggest pay deals for an executive last year and it has stoked claims that big oil companies are profiteering from the soaring price of crude. Exxon made a profit of $36.1bn in 2005, the biggest ever by any company in the world.

Up to 100 protesters gathered outside the Morton H Meyerson Symphony Centre in downtown Dallas to bang drums and chant slogans, including “Pumping global warming lies” and “No planet, no dividends”.

Shawnee Hoover, the director of the Exxpose Exxon coalition of environmental groups, said the size of Mr Raymond’s retirement package had crystallised anger against the company, the squeeze on oil prices and the company’s increasingly isolated stance on alternative energy.

Even President George Bush, a significant beneficiary of funding from Exxon while he was the governor of Texas, now says high oil prices should prompt investment in sustainable energy. “It is not only that Exxon is making record corporate profits,” Ms Hoover said, “but also that it is paying its chief executives some of the highest compensation packages that have been seen. While ordinary families and businesses are struggling under the weight of the high oil price, Exxon Mobil has been a key architect of keeping America addicted to oil and to keeping the status quo.”

Exxpose Exxon is encouraging consumers to boycott Exxon Mobil’s service stations, which include the Esso brand. The coalition includes Friends of the Earth, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace, which has disrupted Exxon board meetings and speeches by Mr Raymond over several years.

Ben Stewart, of Greenpeace UK, said: “Exxon bosses are the Darth Vaders of global warming. They have run a 50-year-long campaign of dirty tricks designed to block action on the greatest threat to humanity. In years to come, the campaign by this company will be regarded as nothing less than a crime. There are striking parallels with the propaganda campaigns run by tobacco companies in the Sixties, but the damage done by this company could be much greater.” Richard Heede, of Climate Mitigation Services – whose Friends of the Earth-commissioned report attempted to calculate Exxon’s total carbon dioxide and methane emissions, plus those of end customers burning its oil and gas – said Exxon was still responsible for at least 500 million tons of carbon a year.

Mr Raymond routinely accuses advocates of a link between global warming and carbon emissions of practising fuzzy science. His first action as a senior executive was to cut solar and other alternative energy programmes because they did not seem likely to make money for decades.

His successor, Rex Tillerson, who took over at the start of the year, has attempted to put a more congenial face on Exxon’s stance. The company still argues that the link between emissions and global warming rests on the assertion of expert scientists rather than on robust scientific models. He told shareholders: “The level of misinformation only makes it more important to discuss the massive scale of our industry and the meaningful alternatives available in the foreseeable future.”

Investors lambasted Exxon’s board for Mr Raymond’s retirement package, and several said they would withhold their support for the re-election of directors on the remuneration committee. Others argued refusing to invest in renewable energy would condemn the company to extinction. Resolutions proposed by green groups attracted more support than in previous years but were still defeated.


The Independent: An immovable obstacle to action on climate change

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Published: 01 June 2006

If you had to pick one company in America as the ultimate corporate villain, you might be hard pressed to find a better candidate than ExxonMobil. At a time of soaring petrol prices and growing public anger over the cost of filling up cars and trucks, ExxonMobil is not only making money hand over fist at an increasing rate – it is actually making more money than any other oil company in the world.

The company’s top officers and stockholders are, naturally, delighted. But just about everyone else these days seems to be hopping mad. The company was successfully sued last year by petrol station owners who alleged they were being overcharged.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, spit blood at the very mention of the name ExxonMobil for a variety of reasons – the company’s willingness to spend millions of dollars to refute the significance or even the existence of global warming, and the role of energy companies in exacerbating it; its extraordinary lobbying, more energetic than any of its rivals’, to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas exploration; and its continuing refusal to make good on its full compensation payments to the victims of the 1988 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska.

Watchdogs of good corporate governance have been raising eyebrows for years at the compensation collected by ExxonMobil’s top officers. Lee Raymond has been a particular object of public opprobrium for some time. Last November, he testified before Congress that America’s soaring petrol prices were caused by “global supply and demand” and promised that ExxonMobil was assuming its share of the pain. “We’re all in this together,” he told congressmen. That, though, was before it emerged that ExxonMobil made a record-breaking $36bn (£19bn) in profits in 2005, a 40 per cent increase over the previous year

The recent sharp spike in petrol prices – now well over $3 a gallon, compared with well under $2 at the start of the Bush administration – has unleashed a political hurricane and played a major role in hammering President Bush’s approval ratings.

The issue is also likely to play a prominent role in November’s mid-term elections. Already, one Senate candidate, the Tennessee Democrat Harold Ford, has put out television adverts blaming the Republicans for allowing the oil companies to get away with murder. Mr Raymond’s retirement package, he said, was something “you and I paid for”.

In New York state, an ardent campaign is under way to break the company’s monopoly hold on petrol stations along a stretch of road known as the Thruway. Eric Goldstein, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defence Council, a leading environmental lobbying group, justified the initiative, saying: “ExxonMobil has gone out of its way time and again to distinguish itself from its competitors as the most anti-environmental oil company.”

Indeed, the company has financed about 40 organisations dedicated to debunking global warming, starting in the late 1980s. Mr Raymond himself has twice served as chairman of the climate change-denying Global Climate Coalition.

Even the federal government has found evidence the company has contributed directly to the increased cost of energy. The Government Accountability Office recently found that Exxon’s 1999 merger with Mobil alone added four to five cents to the price of a gallon of petrol.

Exxon said: “Operating in an environmentally responsible manner has long been and continues to be a primary focus for ExxonMobil. This includes… regular dialogue with local communities, and research to understand the impacts of air quality on health.”

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