Massachusetts Sues Exxon for Allegedly Defrauding Consumers, Investors on Climate Risks
Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, in what Climate Liability News says is the first case to accuse the colossal fossil of fraud against both consumers and investors over climate risks.
Attorney General Maura Healey “said that while Exxon has long known its products drive climate destabilization, the world’s largest publicly-traded oil and gas company has misled consumers with deceptive advertising and failed to disclose climate-related risks to its investors,” CLN reports. “The AG said Exxon has also failed to disclose how catastrophic climate impacts from continued fossil fuel burning could be a larger risk to the global economy.”
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In New York, meanwhile, court proceedings began this month in Attorney General Letitia James’ contention that Exxon misled investors by masking tens of billions of dollars in liabilities by keeping two sets of numbers to reflect the costs the climate crisis would impose on its business, one for shareholders, the other for in-house management.
“Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger cleared the way for the suit earlier Thursday by denying Exxon’s emergency motion for a time extension,” CLN states. “She ruled from the bench after a hearing to consider Exxon’s motion, which it filed one week after Healey’s office notified Exxon of its intent to sue.” Healey said the suit “seeks relief in the form of civil penalties, attorney and investigation fees and monetary damages as well as an injunctive order to force Exxon to stop its alleged deception,” the publication adds.
“Exxon has known for decades about the catastrophic climate impacts of burning fossil fuels—its chief product,” Healey said in the most recent filing last week. “Yet, to this day, Exxon continues to deceive Massachusetts consumers and investors about the dangerous climate harms caused by its oil and gasoline products and the significant risks of climate change—and efforts to address it—to Exxon’s business. We are suing to stop this illegal deception and penalize the company for its misconduct.”
Healey’s complaint in Suffolk County Superior Court “follows a three-year investigation that Exxon has vigorously fought,” Climate Liability News notes. “And while Exxon has contended her investigation and similar legal proceedings against it are ‘politically motivated’ and part of a conspiracy, Healey told reporters the case is simply about fraud.”
“It’s about the deception and misrepresentation made to every investor and every consumer,” she said. “That deception we allege continues to this day.”
Climate Liability News traces the court filing back to April 2016, when Massachusetts first served Exxon with a Civil Investigative Demand (CID). “Exxon countered by trying to stop the investigation in both state and federal courts and Exxon has still not responded to the CID, which it is appealing in Massachusetts court,” writes reporter Dana Drugmand.
“Exxon fights every effort to hold the company accountable,” Healey said. “We know this case isn’t going to be easy.”
But “despite Exxon’s resistance, the AG’s office said it has enough evidence to file the suit without the documents demanded in the CID,” Drugmand writes. “Minutes later, they had.”