WASHINGTON — The biggest owners of oil and gas companies aren’t found inside their boardrooms.
Instead, according to a study released by the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday, they are largely retirees and people saving for retirement.
The analysis, completed by Sonecon for the trade group, examined publicly held oil and gas companies to identify their shareholders and found:
- Public and private pension and retirement plans, including 401(k)s and IRAs, hold 46.8 percent of all shares of U.S. oil and natural gas companies.
- Asset management companies, including mutual funds, hold 24.7 percent of those shares.
- Individual investors own 18.7 percent.
- Institutional investors, such as banks, insurance companies, foundations and endowments, hold 6.9 percent of the shares.
- The officers and board members of U.S. oil and gas companies hold less than 3 percent of the shares.
API released the study and talked with reporters about the findings as oil companies announce third quarter earnings. Reports of large profits can feed criticism in the nation’s capital, sometimes driving calls to spike tax incentives enjoyed by the oil industry.
Kyle Isakower, vice president of regulatory and economic policy for API, said the study shows that “when oil and natural gas companies do well, so do millions of their owners all across America.”
“It’s important for Americans and policymakers to understand who really are the beneficiaries when oil and gas is thriving here in the United States,” Isakower added during a conference call with reporters. “It’s not only consumers — through low cost and affordable energy — but also the owners of the energy companies themselves.”
The report reflects a broad oil and gas industry ownership despite divestiture campaigns sweeping through universities and other institutions.
Sonecon CEO Robert Shapiro said broad ownership motivates companies to invest more productively “because if they don’t, shareholders move out of those companies and stock prices fall.”
It also could encourage a sharper focus on ensuring strong returns on investment — a dollar-driven focus some conservationists argue could dissuade oil companies from deploying capital to low-return efforts with big environmental gains, such as plugging methane leaks from pipelines, pumps and other equipment.
Related story: Energy Department: U.S. must act now on methane emissions
The broad distribution of shareholders also suggests that the economic health of the oil and gas industry is deeply tied to the U.S. economy as a whole.
“The oil and gas industry . . . forms the backbone of the infrastructure of modern life,” said Shapiro, an economic adviser to the campaigns of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and other presidential candidates. “It cannot do well unless the economy is doing well, and the economy can’t do well unless it’s doing well.”