Climate battle between TotalEnergies and small shareholders

TotalEnergies management and shareholders are opposing the subject of a resolution asking the oil group to adhere to the Paris climate agreement.

Who should determine TotalEnergies’ climate policy? The group’s management and shareholders are struggling on the agenda of the general meeting with a resolution asking the oil group to comply with the Paris climate agreement. In preparation for the group’s annual general meeting, scheduled for May 25, a collective of 11 investors wanted to put to the vote a resolution, presented in April, requiring the company “to increase the degree of alignment of their strategies with the objectives of the group.” Paris Agreement”.

But the board of directors declined to put it on the agenda, believing that this proposal would “effectively set out the strategy” of the group, a legal power conferred on the board. Shareholders were then invited to… ask a written or oral question, “which takes precedence” during the AGM. Not enough to cool down the entire coalition of shareholders, who represent 0.78% of the oil and gas giant’s capital.

Five of them, such as Edmond de Rothschild or La Financière de l’Echiquier, not known for their activism in the public square, questioned the chairman of the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), Robert Ophèle, in a letter on Wednesday. The other signatories to the letter are the Dutch MN Services, PGGM and Kempen Capital Management. They ask the AMF to “order the Governing Council to put the climate decision on the agenda of the GA”.

“A caricatural and outdated vision”

The AMF board, chaired by Robert Ophèle, has the option to initiate summary proceedings, particularly if practices “are likely to infringe savers’ rights,” according to the AMF website. The prohibition power could also target “any other deficiency that could undermine investor protection,” according to the Monetary and Financial Code.

Or la résolution laisse selon les investisseurs “toute latitude” pour aligner les activités de TotalEnergies avec les objectifs de l’accord de Paris, assurent dans la lettre les investisseurs, pour qui le refus “trahit une vision caricaturale et surannée du fonctionnement” de l ‘company.

But for TotalEnergies, legally it is up to the board of directors to “return to the definition of the strategy, particularly in terms of energy transition,” a statement to AFP said. “Since 2021, our climate ambition has been subject to the advisory vote of the General Assembly,” we also explain. Hence the refusal to present this resolution, while another, with similar objectives, was presented in 2020.

In mid-April, another coalition of investors, which also had plans to table a resolution on climate, finally withdrew its initiative, figuring it had been heard by TotalEnergies.

“It is important that the AMF positions itself”

The AMF, approached by AFP, reiterated that it has “not commented on specific cases”. But the funds hope that this interpellation will finally prompt them to take a stand and follow the example of the US Stock Exchange Officer (SEC). A resolution to force a company to meet ‘reduction targets’ without imposing ‘a specific method for achieving them’ is acceptable, the investors say in their letter.

“It is important that the AMF positions itself”, as the SEC does in the United States, says Sophie Vermeille of Vermeille&Co, which oversaw the approach of the five funds. The AMF has never taken injunctions in this regard, she admits. “We are trying to find a way to resolve the solution situation as quickly as possible.” Shareholders always have the option of appealing to the commercial court, which handles disputes related to general meetings. Such a procedure would weigh more heavily if the AMF takes a position.

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