The Los Angeles Times thinks California’s next attorney general must place the investigation into Exxon Mobil’s climate change research at the top of their “to do” list.
Whoever becomes California’s next attorney general will have to address the probes and allegations that Exxon lied to the public and investors at the seriousness of man-made global warming, the LA Times editorial board wrote Friday.
“For years, Exxon financed projects aimed at undermining the growing scientific consensus about global warming, and continued to sell stock to investors without acknowledging either the dangers to the world of burning fossil fuels,” the paper added.
Journalists have had a field day blasting Exxon after a series of investigations conducted by InsideClimate News found the company had allegedly played fast and loose with information concerning global warming. The Los Angeles Times also conducted its own probes into the country’s largest oil company.
InsideClimate News, which is funded by a who’s who of green energy insiders, alleges that Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, and others also joined Exxon in misleading the public about the supposed effects global warming has on sea levels.
Exxon’s willingness to deprive investors of information regarding global warming, the paper stated, “suggests both hypocrisy and a lack of concern about the fate of the planet.”
Legal analysts, meanwhile, cast doubt on whether the oil company’s actions were illegal. They say the Martin Act, which allows attorneys general in New York to investigate and eventually prosecute companies for committing fraud using scant evidence, probably shouldn’t be used to prosecute Exxon.
Merritt Fox, a law professor at Columbia University and an expert on financial law and securities, told a panel in May that the evidence InsideClimate News unburied was already mostly in the public eye. Exxon wasn’t hiding anything that wasn’t already open to investors with a computer.
The law requires the likelihood that a reasonable investor would consider the omitted important information and decided “not to vote or buy, sell, or hold, and that it has to significantly alter a total mix of information available to this reasonable man or reasonable investor.”
But since “the market was well supplied with information about climate change,” Fox added. “It’s not, I don’t know what the documents would discover, but I’d be kind of amazed if what the Exxon scientists knew was so different from what other scientists outside Exxon knew and were publicly available that it would change that total mix in a significant way.”
The LA Times hopes that Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Democrat nominated by Gov. Jerry Brown as California’s next attorney general, will take up investigations against the company if he is elected. The outlet also wants the Los Angeles politician to join similar probes started by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who also began probing Exxon shortly after InsideClimate’s reports, are currently facing a prolonged court battle in Texas. U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade is trying to determine if the two scheming AGs are engaged in a fishing expedition.
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