- 🛢️ This Big Oil lawsuit could change activist investing
🛢️ This Big Oil lawsuit could change activist investing
In today’s email:
Meta’s betting on AI
How big is space really?
Why Bitcoin’s dropped in value, fast
A crypto coin backed by “god’s word”
A&O and HSF keep most of their trainees
Google Street View but for 1940s New York
Staff costs at CMS and Trowers & Hamlins are sky high
… and more!
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🛢️ This Big Oil lawsuit could change activist investing
What's going on here?
Exxon Mobil (a huge American oil and gas company) is suing two activist investors who are pushing the company to set more ambitious emissions targets.
What is an activist investor?
An activist investor is a fund which buys a significant amount of a company's shares. They then use this position to influence or change that company's operations to align with what the activist investor wants them to do.
However, as we see here, their actions can sometimes lead to conflicts with the company's leadership.
What are these activist investors trying to do?
The two activist investors, Arjuna Capital and Follow This, are making a shareholder proposal urging Exxon to set more aggressive emissions targets.
For over a decade, they’ve been doing this with all five of the major Western oil-and-gas companies (which are Exxon, BP, Chevron, Shell and TotalEnergies).
I was looking at the activist investors’ websites. If you want to support (and have a spare €99) you can literally just buy a share in Exxon on Follow This’s site.
Why’s this a problem?
Understandably, Exxon doesn’t want to be bossed around when it comes to their green initiatives.
So, when they receive these sorts of ‘shareholder proposals’, Exxon typically asks the SEC (the US financial regulator) whether they can exclude it from their proxy statements (the document sent to all shareholders for voting).
In the era of Donald Trump, the SEC would generally be okay with that. But now, under the administration of President Biden, the SEC has become more likely to side with activist investors.
So, that’s why Exxon have tried to bypass this route altogether this time.
What’s Exxon Mobil doing now?
Exxon has taken the aggressive step of suing the two activist investors, Arjuna Capital and Follow This.
In its lawsuit, Exxon argues that by pushing their agendas, these activist investors actually harm shareholder value, and force companies on the receiving end to pay high legal and admin costs to oppose them. They say the activists shouldn’t be allowed to do this.
What’s the big picture effect?
The case, which is still ongoing, is an important one — especially if Exxon win.
⚖️ Legal: If they get a judgment in their favour, it will set a precedent make it harder for activist investors to make shareholder proposals like this.
It’ll be a win for the oil companies, and a loss for those fighting for faster corporate change.
🏛️ Political: This story shows how politics can shift the focus of regulatory departments. The SEC is meant to be independent of the government. But it’s clear that the government of the day influences it — there’s a difference between the SEC under Trump and Biden.
If you want to read more on this, check out this article by the US law firm Ropes & Gray.
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IN OTHER NEWS 🗞
📊 Staff costs at law firms CMS and Trowers & Hamlins are rising faster than revenue, causing profits to fall. Both firms saw profits fall and staff costs rise. The reason is thought to be high inflation and increased headcounts, which are affecting law firms' profitability. A PwC report stated that 44% of top 100 law firms experienced falling profits for these reasons.
🔌 Meta plans to buy 350,000 of Nvidia’s high-end chips, in a deal potentially close to $10bn (£7.85bn) this year alone. While Meta's been tightening its belt elsewhere, this AI investment could be a game-changer, with investors eyeing the potential of AI more favourably than Meta's past bet on the ‘metaverse’.
🎓 Allen & Overy (A&O) and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) have announced their trainee retention rates for Spring 2024. A&O’s keeping 77% (30 out of 39 trainees) and HSF is keeping an impressive 97% (29 out of 30). This may be A&O's last retention rate before its merger with Shearman & Sterling.
🗞️ OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman says that they don't need the data from The New York Times. This comes after the NY Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement. OpenAI is now eyeing partnerships with other news sources like CNN and Fox to license content, moving away from reliance on big datasets and focusing on high-quality, smaller data pools.
🔻 Bitcoin's value dipped nearly 20% since the introduction of Bitcoin ETFs a few weeks ago. We covered the launch of the Bitcoin ETFs in this post last week. While the initial excitement pushed its price to $49,021 (£38,498), it fell to around $39,990 (£31,410) soon after. This decline is happening at the same time as major big funds withdraw from Bitcoin, influenced by factors like the FTX bankruptcy.
📉 EY Law is reducing its UK workforce, launching a redundancy consultation for 24 legal roles due to lower demand. This follows the closure of EY Riverview Law in Manchester, which resulted in 55 job losses. Despite these cuts, EY Law still has a global workforce of 3,500, with over 290 supporting the UK market. These reductions are part of broader adjustments in the legal sector, with other firms (like CMS and Trowers & Hamlins) also trimming their number of lawyers because of market conditions.
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