Shocked, shocked by our lobbyist

Source: BY MATTHEW CHOI, Politico • Posted: Thursday, July 1, 2021

A video covertly taken by an arm of Greenpeace UK showed Exxon Mobil lobbyist Keith McCoy admitting that the company funded “shadow groups” to undermine climate policy initiatives, even as the company publicly said it was committed to fighting climate change. That drew a prompt rebuke from Exxon Chair and CEO Darren Woods, who disavowed the words of the company’s in-house lobbyist of seven years.

“Comments made by the individuals in no way represent the company’s position on a variety of issues, including climate policy and our firm commitment that carbon pricing is important to addressing climate change,” Woods said in a statement. The CEO went on to say that “The individuals interviewed were never involved in developing the company’s policy positions on the issues discussed.”

But the video confirms what climate activists have always suspected. “Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes,” McCoy told the Greenpeace operative who was surreptitiously filming the encounter. “Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true.”

As for Exxon’s public promotion of a carbon tax, McCoy said he doesn’t think it’s going to happen: “Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans. The cynical side of me says we know that, but it gives us a talking point.” McCoy, who could not be reached for comment, wrote on his LinkedIn page that despite his work lobbying for Exxon since 2014, “My statements clearly do not represent ExxonMobil’s positions on important public policy issues.”

Expect this to add ammunition to shareholder groups who have been pushing for rules forcing public companies to disclose more information on their lobbying disclosures. “If this is even half true, there is a considerable disconnect” between Exxon’s public policy statements and its actions, Tim Smith, director of ESG shareowner engagement Boston Trust Walden, told ME. Smith pointed to the shareholder resolution that passed at Exxon itself earlier this year that requires the company to start disclosing how much money it spends on trade associations and other third parties. “This is exactly why these shareholder resolutions are so important. They are demanding the companies address the misalignment between their public statements and what they are doing in terms of lobbying and government outreach.”