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Exxon Mobil Corporation Bullies Widow Over Inheritance of a Few Hundred Dollars

By       Message Jan Baumgartner       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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* Oct. 12, 2005 - Exxon Posts Largest Quarterly Profit Ever: U.S. oil giant reports quarterly sales of $100 billion making Exxon the first U.S. company ever to ring up quarterly sales of $100 billion. (souce:

* July 27, 2006 - Surging Oil Prices Help Drive Up Quarterly Profits For U.S. Energy Giant Exxon Mobil to 10.36 billion dollars: Second quarter profit was up 36% from a year ago.  The soaring profits of Exxon Mobil and other oil groups have generated fierce criticism about the industry profiting from consumer misery, prompting some U.S. lawmakers to call for a "windfall" profits tax. (source:

* Exxon Mobil Posted Consecutive U.S. Records For Annual Corporate Earnings For 2005 and 2006. (source:

* Aug. 16, 2007 - Despite a Decline, Exxon Mobil's Quarterly Profit Again Tops $10 billion: Exxon Mobil reports a drop in second-quarter profit, net profits reported at $10.25 billion, down 1% from $10.36 billion. (source: New York Times)

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My late husband inherited from his parents, a few shares and oil rights to Exxon Mobil Corporation, which amounted to all of a couple hundred dollars every year.  We would get these small royalty checks, periodically throughout the year, maybe for thirty dollars, fifty here or there, enough to pay a bill, perhaps a meal out.  These shares, in his name, would become rightfully mine as surviving spouse and the sole beneficiary following his death.    

During his last few months, he was adamant that I not let these royalty checks slip through the cracks, that I do whatever was necessary to have the claim transferred to my name, and as he so succinctly put it, "don't let them screw you, not even for a couple hundred dollars."

In truth, we were disgusted with Exxon - the Valdez oil spill turned our stomachs not to mention the handsome, if not unconscionable profits the company was pocketing, billions upon billions of dollars, a fatter wallet with every drop at the pump - and at the consumer's expense - both literally and figuratively.

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A couple of years following my husband's death, after I had tended to more critical and time sensitive paperwork, I remembered his words and contacted Exxon Mobil requesting the documents needed to legally change the name on the oil shares and royalty checks to mine. The envelope arrived, not surprisingly, rather thick around the middle, page after page of requested information that was mandatory in order to release my few hundred dollars, which by then, had been turned over by Exxon to Bank of the West in Wyoming, acting as "an agent of the state."

In addition to page after page of personal information, they also requested a copy of the death certificate, a will, if one existed, two witnesses to fill out the paperwork, and then present at the signing of a notary public.  Good friends filled out the tome and accompanied me to the town office to act as witnesses while the affidavit was notarized.

In May, off it went to Exxon headquarters in Houston, Texas.  Cautiously optimistic, I thought that perhaps I'd see my few hundred dollars being held by Exxon Mobil (who certainly didn't appear to need the money to keep the lights on or pay employee salaries) in a few weeks, maybe a couple of months.

When I heard nothing for months, I called Exxon Mobil, on my dime, no toll free number, and was told that my money was being held by Bank of the West in Wyoming, where the oil rights were, and I would have to deal with them directly, including sending more copies of all the legal documentation I had already forwarded to Exxon (which was not mentioned prior to this).

When I protested, asking why Exxon who was working in conjunction with Bank of the West, and had turned over my accrued monies to the bank's escrow account, wasn't responsible for handling all transactions with Bank of the West, the employee, as if exhausted by the entire process retorted, "well, I'll go ahead and do that, but if I were you, I'd send a letter to the bank to make sure you get your money."

Next day, mid-June, I sent a letter to Bank of the West in Wyoming.  When no check arrived in my mailbox for another two months, I once again called Exxon in Texas, my dime, no toll free number.

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When my call was not returned after a few days, I called again.  This time I was told that Bank of the West appeared to be dragging its feet, that there was one agent responsible for literally thousands of similar claims and waiting for months, if not years, would not be out of the question in regards to receiving my inherited royalty check.  It was additionally implied that this might not happen at all, that the state, after paying out thousands that ended up in the hands of individuals that were not rightful heirs and owners to such claims, might not pay at all. 

What did this have to do with me? And a couple hundred bucks?

When I suggested that this was wrong, that legally, the money was mine and they had no right to hold it, I was told, "good luck trying to sue the state of Wyoming."  And then, if that weren't enough, the Exxon representative chided, "well you wouldn't believe what Exxon has had to go through in working on your claim with Bank of the West."  You mean like sending copies? Faxing a document? Making a phone call? This was my fault? Obviously, it wasn't worth whatever Exxon was paying their employees.

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Jan Baumgartner is the author of the memoir, Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind. She was born near San Francisco, California, and for years lived on the coast of Maine. She is a writer and creative content book editor. She's worked as a (more...)

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