New York’s Democratic attorney general is investigating Exxon Mobil for allegedly lying to investors about the risks global warming pose to the oil business.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is “demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents” focusing on “the company’s activities dating to the late 1970s, including a period of at least a decade when Exxon Mobil funded groups that sought to undermine climate science,” according to The New York Times.
The main focus of the probe will be “whether the company adequately warned investors about potential financial risks stemming from society’s need to limit fossil fuel use,” The Times reported.
“The Exxon Mobil investigation might expand further, to encompass other oil companies, according to the people with knowledge of the case, though no additional subpoenas have been issued to date,” The Times added.
The probe comes after calls from Democratic presidential candidates, lawmakers and environmental activists for Exxon to be prosecuted for funding groups skeptical of the science behind man-made global warming, even after the company’s own scientists said warming could pose a problem.
“We unequivocally reject the allegations that Exxon Mobil has suppressed climate change research,” Kenneth Cohen, Exxon’s lead spokesman told The Times, adding that “the company had funded mainstream climate science since the 1970s, had published dozens of scientific papers on the topic, and had disclosed climate risks to investors.”
The timing is somewhat convenient. In recent months, Democrats have increasingly argued the government should prosecute fossil fuel companies and groups that question global warming under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) — a law created to pursue the mafia and other crime syndicates.
Coincidentally, the liberal news site InsideClimate News released a six-part series in September outlining how Exxon conducted extensive research in climate science in the 1980s, but then opposed government regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions and supported groups skeptical of man-made warming.
Since then, every Democratic presidential candidate has pushed for a federal investigation of Exxon. Most recently, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton endorsed a Justice Department investigation on Exxon and global warming.
“Yes, yes they should … there’s a lot of evidence they misled people,” Clinton said in response to a question by an environmental activist in New Hampshire last week.
Exxon has argued the climate science they funded resulted in dozens of peer-reviewed studies published publicly, meaning they can be viewed by other scientists and the public. It’s also unclear what the company could have told investors about the risks of global warming that wasn’t already publicly available.
There have been a slew of reports put out by government agencies, environmental groups and business groups about potential future damages from global warming, mostly from extreme weather. These reports, like the climate models they rely on, are speculative and have a wide range of damage estimates.
Exxon also endorses taxing carbon dioxide emissions, does research into biofuels and helped developed lithium-ion batteries, and the company worked with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) since its inception in 1988.
“What we have understood from the outset — and something which over-the-top activists fail to acknowledge — is that climate change is an enormously complicated subject,” Cohen wrote in a recent blog post. “The climate and mankind’s connection to it are among the most complex topics scientists have ever studied, with a seemingly endless number of variables to consider over an incredibly long timespan.”
Exxon has also been more active in recent years in warning investors about the potential impacts of government regulations to tackle global warming.
“These requirements could make our products more expensive, lengthen project implementation times, and reduce demand for hydrocarbons, as well as shift hydrocarbon demand toward relatively lower-carbon sources such as natural gas,” the company warned investors last year.
This is not the first time the New York attorney general has investigated a company for allegedly misleading investors on the risks of global warming. The Times reported Schneiderman launched a two year investigation into coal company Peabody Energy’s alleged misleading of investors on global warming risks — the investigation never led to any formal charges.
Exxon did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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