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Highlighting Exxon suit, investors urge firms to keep shareholder spats out of court

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Updates total amount of assets under management in paragraph 2, indicates PGGM as pension investor in pararaph 6

AMSTERDAM, May 28 (Reuters) -A group of around 40 large European and American institutional investors on Tuesday urged companies to refrain from taking shareholders to court over disagreements relating to their proposals.

The group, which represents $4.8 trillion in assets under management, highlighted the lawsuit filed by Exxon Mobil XOM.N against two activist groups, in which the oil company seeks to bar their climate resolution.

They said long-term investors would suffer if companies increasingly seek the judgment of a court for settling disagreements on shareholder proposals.

"We are concerned that these actions will deter the filing of proposals concerning the sustainability issues that are material to the performance of our equity and fixed income portfolios", the investors said.

"We want to protect the right of shareholders to use their vote to decide for themselves when a proposal, sustainability-related or otherwise, is in their best interests and that of their stakeholders."

Among the group are pension investors APG, PGGM and insurer NN Group NN.AS from the Netherlands, Nordic banks Nordea NDAOG.UL and Swedbank SWEDa.ST, and a range of other investors from across Europe and the U.S.

The group backed a similar call to companies made by the U.S. Council of Institutional Investors in February to let the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) be the arbiter in case of disagreements over shareholder resolutions.

Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Jan Harvey


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