I have had a lot of response to my “Stranded Assets” post, with requests for more information – and a correction: “Exxon is not the worlds largest energy company. The national oil companies of the Persian Gulf all make it look like a peanut.” Some shared stories of token votes overwhelmed by management and expressed wonder that small shareholders could have any impact. But the perception of the almost mythic power of “multinational corporations” – like that of "big government" – overlooks their origins as a democratic concept that made, at least in theory, economic participation available to a broad public. Perhaps it’s time to stop the impotent handwringing and get involved in the process of governance.
• And from The Economist: “Exxon Mobil, surely the world’s least tree-hugging company, became the first oil giant to say it would publish details of its ‘stranded assets’ – the value of oil and gas fields that it might not be able to exploit if there were a high carbon price or tough rules on greenhouse-gas emissions. Giant Exxon is not doing this because it has gone mushy or caved in to green activists. Rather, it is heading off a shareholder resolution by Arjuna Capital, a fund manager, demanding explanations and actions on environmental threats to the firm. Exxon’s decision is the biggest step so far in a wider business trend: companies publishing information on their environmental impact and vulnerability to green regulation, to attract or placate investors.”
There is more than one way to occupy Wall Street.