Subversive proxies

In a Wall Street Journal article last week about grand-ostrich Exxon Mobil’s war of denial against global warming, a spokesman for an environmental group called Ceres was quoted. What he said wasn’t interesting, but the way his group was described started me thinking. Ceres was called “a Boston-based environmental group that’s trying to put shareholder pressure on Exxon to go greener.” It occured to me that if the money you donate to enivronmental causes is charity money you are throwing away, why not pool it and invest it in the very companies you want to undermine. If you pool a large enough sum of shares, you could perhaps truly affect policy within the boardroom. I know there must be a flaw to this logic, though. Inevitably the shareholders would become corrupted by their own sudden access to power and profit were they to acquire a meaningful stake in a corporation. And the effect of buying the stock in an offending company could be that its price goes up, rewarding it for its polluting behavior. Still, the idea for a moment seemed attractive to me, an alternative to the slow slog of protest that our culture so effectively reports and portrays as paranoid whining.

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