By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
BOSTON, May 14 (Reuters) - Institutional Shareholder Services, the biggest proxy advisory firm, on Friday recommended that Exxon Mobil shareholders elect three of hedge fund Engine No. 1's four directors to the oil company's 13-member board.
ISS recommended that shareholders vote for Gregory Goff, Kaisa Hietala and Alexander Karsner, in one of the industry's most closely watched struggles for board control.
In a report sent to clients on Friday morning, ISS said Engine No. 1 had "made a compelling case that additional board change is needed to provide shareholders with sufficient confidence in the sustainability of (Exxon's) business".
Specifically, ISS said that Goff and Hietala would "address the need for independent industry expertise", and that she and Karsner would increase the board's ability to assess the energy transition.
The recommendation often guides how other institutional investors will vote at the May 26 meeting.
Exxon and Engine No. 1 have traded barbs for months, since the hedge fund began pressuring the oil company in December to focus more clean energy and improve its financial performance.
Engine No. 1, a $250 million California-based firm, has called for expanded spending and pay cuts, a board shake-up and shift to cleaner fuels.
Its views are supported by pension funds California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the New York State Common Retirement Fund.
(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Jason Neely and Jan Harvey)
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