- March 20 - In a move that will suppress debate on their plans to drill for oil and gas on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, BP Amoco has decided to exclude a resolution from their 2001 Annual General Meeting that calls on the British-based oil giant to respect the wilderness values found in the Arctic Refuge and review plans to drill for oil and gas in Americas Arctic.
The Arctic shareholder resolution was originally filed on January 31, 2001, but was rejected by BP Amoco, contending that U.S. owners of American Depository Shares (ADS) do not have the same rights to file shareholder resolutions as investors with ordinary shares in the United Kingdom. The resolution was re-filed on March 8, 2000, mostly by individuals in the United Kingdom and owners of BP Amoco common stock in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, including U.S. PIRG, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Trillium Asset Management, Walden Asset Management, Green Century Balanced Fund, MMA Financial Services, Catholic Healthcare West, and Ethical Funds of Canada.
"Drilling in the Arctic Refuge Americas Arctic is a very controversial issue in the United States, and the least BP Amoco could do is allow an open debate, said Athan Manuel, director of the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) Arctic Wilderness campaign and one of the authors of the resolution. BP Amocos belligerence contradicts their actions just a year ago when they allowed a similar resolution, supported by ADR shareholders, to be voted on at the 2000 Annual General Meeting.
Thirteen percent of BP Amoco shareholders voted in favor of last years Arctic Refuge resolution supported by PIRG, Greenpeace, and Trillium Asset Management. In addition to canceling drilling plans for the Arctic, the resolution called on the company to cancel the Northstar offshore oil project in the South Beaufort Sea and invest more money in solar power.
In a letter dated March 17, 2001, BP Amoco rejected this years Arctic resolution. The challenge appears to center on whether the co-filers of the resolution hold BP Amoco common stock in their own name or through financial intermediaries. As is the case with most institutional investors of foreign common stock, the American shareholders who co-filed the Arctic resolution hold their shares through nominees. BP Amoco claims it can only recognize those resolutions filed with stock that is held directly in the shareowner's name, rather than through a nominee.
Also at issue is the number of proponents filing the resolution. Although the shareholder coalition is confident it met the U.K. requirement of 100 proponents, BP Amoco disputes that the resolution was supported by the requisite number of co-filers. However, the company has not provided the resolution's proponents with verification of this claim.
In the same letter, BP Amoco invited Arctic co-filers to attend and comment at the annual meeting on April 19, 2001. The letter went on to ask that such comments are . . . balanced in view of the diversity of our worldwide investor base.
It is ironic that BP Amoco talks about their worldwide investor base while treating ADR shareholders as second-class citizens and splitting hairs concerning American holders of common shares, even when proof of ownership has been provided, said Tim Smith, Senior Vice President at Walden Asset Management. Instead of stifling debate, BP Amoco should allow all shareholders to express their opinion though the proxy process on the subject of drilling in the Arctic Refuge.
U.S. PIRG is the national office for the State Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public-interest advocacy groups active across the country.