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Exxon draws heat for sponsoring Masters
Shareholders claim support of the golf tournament violates company's policies on discrimination.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Exxon Mobil is under fire for practicing what some shareholders are calling high-profile sex discrimination.

A group of shareholders say that the company's sponsorship of events like the Masters Golf Tournament, which is held at the men-only Augusta National Golf Club, is in direct violation of the company's stated policies on discrimination.


The annual tournament has drawn criticism in recent years for being held at a private club where women are barred from membership. This year's Masters starts Thursday.

The shareholders said Wednesday that they filed a resolution that would require management to report all company spending at venues that discriminate against women and to explain how sponsoring an event where discrimination takes place fits in with company policy.

"In sponsoring an event at a venue that practices very high-profile sex discrimination, this company is acting in direct violation of its stated policies on discrimination," Martha Burk, a shareholder who filed the resolution, said in a statement.

"It is an insult to female employees, stockholders and customers, and it exposes the company to legal liability as well," she said. "Exxon Mobil would not sponsor such an event if it were held at a venue that discriminated against African Americans or other racial minorities. It should be no different for women," she added.

Exxon Mobil spokesman Dave Gardner said the company prohibits any kind of discrimination and is committed to fostering and supporting diversity.

"We support (the Masters tournament) because it is viewed by a very wide international audience and provides a unique opportunity to promote our company messages, including significant support for education," he said.

The proposal will appear on Exxon's proxy statement, which will be issued next week, according to Gardner.

Burk, a long-time advocate for allowing women members at Augusta National, plans to present the resolution at Exxon Mobil's annual shareholder meeting on May 31 in Dallas.

Exxon Mobil, the nation's largest oil company, hauled in a record $339.9 billion in sales and earned $36.1 billion last year, making it the biggest company in the latest Fortune 500.


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