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Rockefeller family is exiting oil business after 146 years

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Staff writer ▼ | March 24, 2016
John D. Rockefeller
Socially responsible   John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil in 1870

The Rockefeller Family Fund is liquidating its investments in fossil fuel companies, including Exxon Mobil.

"While the global community works to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, it makes little sense - financially or ethically - to continue holding investments in these companies," the fund said on Wednesday in a statement.

"There is no sane rationale for companies to continue to explore for new sources of hydrocarbons."

Exxon, the world's second-biggest company, is a descendant of Standard Oil, which was famously broken up in 1911 as part of President Theodore Roosevelt's trustbusting campaign.

"We would be remiss if we failed to focus on what we believe to be the morally reprehensible conduct on the part of ExxonMobil.

"Evidence appears to suggest that the company worked since the 1980s to confuse the public about climate change’s march, while simultaneously spending millions to fortify its own infrastructure against climate change’s destructive consequences and track new exploration opportunities as the Arctic’s ice receded.

"Appropriate authorities will determine if the company violated any laws, but as a matter of good governance, we cannot be associated with a company exhibiting such apparent contempt for the public interest.

To operationalize this decision, the Board has instructed its advisors, effective immediately, to eliminate holdings of ExxonMobil, and all coal, and tar sands-based companies outside the portions of the portfolio managed by third parties, and to keep exposures for these three categories of investment below 1 percent across the entire portfolio.

"The Family Fund’s Finance Committee will soon be entering the second phase of its divestment work, which will entail seeking suitable alternatives to certain commingled funds now held.

"The field of Socially Responsible Investing is dynamic and growing and we are confident that a variety of options will soon emerge for mid-sized endowments such as ours.

Needless to say, the Rockefeller family has had a long and profitable history investing in the oil industry, including ExxonMobil. These are not decisions, therefore, that have been taken lightly or without much consideration of their import. But history moves on, as it must."


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