The New York attorney general has sued Exxon Mobil for deceiving investors about how much climate change will affect its business. It’s the latest legal trouble for the fossil fuel corporation, which has long been under investigation by the New York attorney general, in addition to being sued by cities on both coasts.
According to today’s lawsuit, Exxon claimed that its business would be fine even given increasing climate change regulation. In reality, the suit alleges, the company “employed internal practices” that put company profits at a higher risk than shareholders were led to believe. The suit, brought by current NY Attorney General Barbara Underwood, demands that Exxon return the money it made through fraud. Though no number is named, such an amount could be in the hundreds of millions.
Exxon Mobil has been embroiled in controversy in recent years. Though the company has conducted plenty of scientific research into climate change (and even claimed to incorporate this research into its long-term planning), it has also sowed doubt through misinformation campaigns. This January, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sued Exxon Mobil (along with BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell) for their part in contributing to climate change, hoping that the companies will help to pay for the damage they caused. (This suit was later dismissed.)
Similarly, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland tried to sue Exxon and other companies for similar reasons. But in June, a federal judge ruled to dismiss the lawsuit. Though Judge William Alsup agreed that burning fossil fuels has contributed to global warming, he disagreed that lawsuits were the best avenue for planetary protection.
“Climate change deception is central to Exxon’s business model,” Center for Climate Integrity executive director Richard Wiles said in a statement. “It should come as no surprise to anyone who has examined the record that Exxon appears to have mislead its own shareholders about its exposure to climate-related financial risks.”
Exxon Mobil did not immediately respond to a request for comment.