Exxon Mobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson will retain both of those jobs at the world's biggest publicly traded oil company after a highly...

Share story

DALLAS — Exxon Mobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson will retain both of those jobs at the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company after a highly public, Rockefeller-led push to separate the roles that failed again today.

Stripping Tillerson of the chairman’s job in favor of an independent director was the main focus of the company’s annual shareholder meeting at a downtown symphony hall. In the end, the measure got support of only 39.5 percent of shareholders, slightly less than last year’s 40 percent, despite a hard push by descendants of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Exxon Mobil predecessor Standard Oil.

A variety of institutional investors in the U.S. and abroad also lined up behind the proposal.

After the meeting, Tillerson, who’s held both positions since 2006, said continued strong support to change company leadership — despite massive profits in recent quarters — was not lost on him.

“It just re-emphasizes to me the importance of our continuing efforts to communicate better with shareholders and with the public and with policymakers,” Tillerson told reporters at a news conference.

That said, none of the 17 shareholder proposals considered at the three-hour meeting received enough support to pass, and all were opposed by the Exxon Mobil board.

Introduced primarily by environmental-minded investors and shareholder activists, they sought such things as quantitative goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, shareholder input on executive compensation and a report on the likely consequences of climate change for developing countries and poor communities between now and 2030.

This marked the seventh time the proposal to split the roles of chairman and CEO was considered.

During the gathering, Peter O’Neill, a great-great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, said he spoke for a majority of the family when he wished Exxon Mobil continued success. “We’re very, very pleased with the performance that the company has been delivering,” O’Neill said.

But Rockefeller family members and others have said they’re concerned Exxon Mobil is too focused on short-term gains from soaring oil prices and should do more to invest in cleaner technology for the future. Some shareholders lambasted the company for not doing enough now to create far-reaching policies to reduce harmful greenhouse-gas emissions.

“It’s crucial for every company to ask, ‘Is it doing all it can to prepare for the future?’ The Rockefeller family believes now is precisely the time for Exxon Mobil, with its strong financial performance, to take the long-term steps needed to increase shareholder value,” O’Neill said.

“All of Exxon Mobil’s acknowledged strengths are no guarantee it will remain flexible and visionary in light of the changing energy realities that lie ahead,” he added. “That’s why we support our company having an independent chair. We are looking forward.”

Exxon Mobil has said Rockefeller family members who have filed or co-filed shareholder resolutions own a total of about 332,000 shares. At the end of last year, Exxon Mobil had 5.3 billion shares outstanding.