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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

In today’s member-exclusive blog, I wrote about Vivek Ramaswamy’s increasingly infamous anti-ESG investment fund DRLL (which upon analysis is way more pro-ESG than it seems). The fund’s second largest holding is Chevron. Yesterday, Ramaswamy sent a lengthy letter to Chevron Chairman and CEO Michael Wirth asking the company to “make capital investments in oil and gas production in a manner that maximizes long-run return on investment rather than to meet emissions reductions targets, net-zero goals, or other constraints not codified in law.”

We believe that Chevron has the potential to become one of the world’s most valuable companies, both in terms of market capitalization and impact on human flourishing. As recently as 2013, Chevron was among the top 10 most valuable public companies in the world by market capitalization. At the beginning of 2022, Chevron did not make the top 50 and is still outside the top 20, but we believe that can change: the growing supply-demand imbalance for energy around the world creates a unique opportunity for a great American oil company like Chevron to meet that need.

To seize this opportunity, Chevron must produce and distribute more fuel to customers around the world – proudly, publicly, and without apology. We are concerned that Chevron faces immense pressure from its large institutional ‘shareholders’ including BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard to adopt value-destroying limitations on its business that do not align with Chevron’s best interests...

Businesses must look ahead to the future and make rational decisions. However, we believe that this tautology has been co-opted by politically motivated and self-interested actors to advance ESG agendas in corporate boardrooms that do not actually serve the long-run interests of U.S. energy companies including Chevron.

… Chevron also voiced its support for a carbon tax: ‘For us, the term carbon price refers to an external price resulting from a policy like a carbon tax…We support a carbon price’ (emphasis included in original report). We are wondering why publicly apologizing for Chevron’s core oil and gas business by supporting a carbon tax best serves the company’s long- run interests…

We respectfully suggest that Chevron would better advance its business interests by standing proudly behind the benefits that fossil fuels deliver to society rather than to voice its support for the Paris Agreement or for a carbon tax. We encourage you not to apologize for producing fossil fuels, and instead to better educate your climate-concerned stakeholders on realities such as the fact that the climate disaster-related death rate today is 98% lower than it was just a century ago – largely due to innovation supported by greater utilization of fossil fuels produced by companies like Chevron.

Interesting reading for sure. While Chevron is a large part DRLL’s holding, according to The Wall Street Journal, the fund holds

… roughly 0.02% stake in Chevron, [and] would likely need support from large shareholders who have generally embraced Chevron’s current strategy to get the company to change course… Large index-fund providers BlackRock, State Street Corp. and Vanguard Group own about 20% of Chevron… Mr. Ramaswamy is counting on large shareholders like Warren Buffett to help Chevron shift its strategy. Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is Chevron’s largest individual shareholder with a roughly 8% stake…

This is likely only DRLL’s first engagement attempt with its holdings. I suspect we will be reading much more about Ramaswamy’s activism in the coming months.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile