New York won’t appeal a ruling by a judge who rejected the state’s claim that Exxon Mobil Corp. misled investors for years about the oil giant’s internal planning for risks associated with climate change.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat who took office after the suit was filed, announced the decision late Friday without giving a reason. James nevertheless hailed the trial in state court as a landmark – “the first time in history” Exxon was forced to answer publicly for its messaging around climate change.
“As we have done for the last year, my office will continue to fight to ensure companies are held responsible for actions that undermine and jeopardize the financial health and safety of Americans across our country,” James said in a statement.
Exxon has never taken the economic impact of climate change on its business seriously, “and that truth was laid bare at trial,” she said.
James’s defiance belies the decision by New York Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager, who rejected all the state’s claims.
In its securities fraud suit, filed in October 2018, New York accused Exxon of lying to shareholders about its use of a “proxy cost” for carbon in its internal accounting to prepare for future climate change regulations. That alleged lie suggested to the public that Exxon was being more prudent about climate risks than it really was, the state said.
Ostrager, in a 55-page ruling in December, said the attorney general’s office “failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Exxon Mobil made any material misstatements or omissions about its practices and procedures that misled any reasonable investor.”
Irving, Texas-based Exxon previously accused New York of filing the lawsuit in a politically motivated attempt to target the company. That argument was bolstered on the final day of the trial when the state dropped its two most serious fraud claims against the company after failing to back them up with any evidence during the trial.
On Friday, a non-profit energy industry organization filed a motion to intervene in the case in an effort to unseal communications between the Attorney General’s office and a well-known plaintiffs lawyer who is involved in various lawsuits against the energy industry.
Energy Policy Advocates, based in Washington state, said in its filing that the lawyer, Matt Pawa, shopped around anti-Exxon litigation strategies in pitches to various AG’s office, including Massachusetts, which has also sued Exxon.
“Documents filed in this matter will shed light on the important ongoing debate about the propriety of the New York Attorney General’s actions in this matter,” the group said in its filing. “Regardless, they will show how such costly if failed litigation came to pass, or at least key influences.”
Neither the New York Attorney General’s office nor Pawa immediately responded to requests for comment on Saturday.
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