Exxon accused of bunker mentality as investors get rough
It looks like golf clubs at dawn. Rex Tillerson, chief executive of ExxonMobil, is set to duel with the tireless women's rights campaigner Martha Burk at the oil giant's annual shareholder meeting this week, over Exxon's sponsorship of the Masters Golf Tournament.
The world's biggest oil group is accused of breaking its own rules against sex discrimination because the tournament is held at the home of the Augusta National golf club - which does not admit women.
Ms Burk is flying into Dallas for Wednesday's meeting, which should prove a lively event. As well as the sex discrimination vote, Exxon is fighting off another dozen shareholder resolutions, many fulminating against the retirement bonus given to the former chief executive, Lee Raymond, who left at the end of last year.
Augusta's resistance to opening up to women has for years infuriated Ms Burk, who is chair of the National Council of Women's Organisations. The club's membership list reads like a Who's Who of American boardrooms. Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, and Jack Welch, the former General Electric boss, are among those who have taken advantage of the networking opportunities on offer at the clubhouse, as has Mr Raymond. He set up Exxon's three-year sponsorship deal with the Masters in 2005.
Ms Burk's polite lobbying received little more than bemused smiles or sarcasm from the club, so this year she is asking Exxon shareholders to demand a review of the company's sponsorship policies. "Would the company sponsor an event held at a venue that barred African-Americans, Jews or homosexuals from membership?" she asks.
Mr Tillerson is refusing to hold a review and will tell shareholders that the sponsorship does not breach the company's sex discrimination ban. The Masters has "provided a unique opportunity to promote the company's messages, including ExxonMobil's support for education, to its wide international audience", he says.
Ms Burk admits her resolution is unlikely to be passed, but hopes she can generate some momentum for her campaign. She has dismissed Exxon's justification as "silly and ridiculous". "It educates the public that they don't care about sex discrimination."
Have shock jocks gone too far after Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut?
Former Google exec says he has 100,000 emails showing how 'immoral' company avoids paying UK tax
Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
World news in pictures
British man faces court after confessing to slitting two children's throats in Lyon flat
- 1 Asteroid nine times the size of the QE2 liner to sail pass Earth
- 2 Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
- 3 British business: We need to stay in the EU - or risk losing up to £92bn a year
- 4 You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
- 5 It’s official: thanks to Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott, anti-Semitism is no more
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
iJobs Money & Business
£550 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Fidessa Analyst / PM - Banking - London - Up to £...
£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: Sourcing Manager - Banking - London - Up to £500p...
To be discussed at interview.: Queen Elizabeth's School: An experienced and ef...
£294.05 - £330.92 per day + 150 per day travel and accommodation: Orgtel: A le...