Chevron CEO clashes with activists at annual meeting
In a combative and sometimes colorful annual meeting, Chevron’s chief executive and chairman exchanged barbs with activists over pollution in the Amazon rain forest and the company’s human rights record, twice scolding speakers who addressed executives.
CEO David O’Reilly told one group that its report on Chevron’s policies “deserves the trash can.”
The nation’s second-largest oil company is awaiting a verdict from a judge in Ecuador that could come with a $27-billion price tag, although it probably would appeal any such decision.
Hundreds of protesters rallied outside, at one point blocking the entrance.
Confrontations outside and inside the company headquarters did not change the outcome of three key shareholder proposals, although they did garner more support than in the past.
At the core of the protests was the suit in Ecuador. It alleges that Texaco, which Chevron bought in 2001, poisoned large swaths of the rain forest by dumping billions of gallons of oil waste, causing cancers and birth defects.
Chevron says Texaco spent $40 million on environmental cleanup there and had been cleared of liability by the Ecuadorean government in power at the time. Chevron said the state oil company PetroEcuador continued to pollute the region after Texaco had left.
A proposal seeking a more detailed human rights policy from Chevron got 28% of the vote. A separate proposal for a report on Chevron’s criteria for investing or operating in countries with questionable human rights records took 26% of the vote. Another measure that focused on how Chevron assesses the environmental laws in other countries got less than 7%.
Similar proposals in the past have never received more than 10% of the vote.
When one speaker took the microphone to talk about a report by environmental organizations titled “The True Cost of Chevron,” O’Reilly called it “insulting to our employees and I think it deserves the trash can.”
The report blamed Chevron for the destruction of communities, environmental damage and political oppression.
Chevron’s overall finances have taken a hit in recent months as the price of oil and natural gas plunged. Chevron’s net income in the first quarter fell 64% to $1.84 billion, while sales fell 45% to $36.1 billion.
Like at many other major corporations, a say-on-pay proposal was also brought up for a vote. The nonbinding advisory proposal was rejected with 42% of the vote.