Exxon Wins Closely Watched Climate Case

New York state accused it of misleading investors on the related costs
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2019 1:38 PM CST
Exxon Wins Closely Watched Climate Case
Former Exxon CEO and ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, leaves a courthouse in New York in October after testifying in the trial.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

ExxonMobil has prevailed in a rare legal situation: a climate change case that made it to trial. This one was more about alleged fraud than pollution, however, reports NPR. New York state Attorney General Letitia James accused the company of misleading investors about the potential cost of climate change, but state Supreme Court Judge Barry Ostrager declared Tuesday that James failed to make her case. The judge made a point, though, to spell out exactly what the case was and was not about: "Nothing in this opinion is intended to absolve ExxonMobil from responsibility for contributing to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gasses in the production of its fossil fuel products," Ostranger wrote. "This is a securities fraud case, not a climate change case."

The AP boils down the legal issue thusly: "The lawsuit accused Exxon Mobil of essentially keeping two sets of books—telling the public that it was fully taking into account the costs of potential future climate regulations in a warming world, while lowballing those costs behind the scenes as it made investment decisions and assessed the value of its oil and gas reserves." That way, the company could make development projects seem more attractive to investors than they really were, according to the state. The company denied this, saying it always gave honest assessments. Former CEO Rex Tillerson, who went on to serve as secretary of state, testified in October to that effect, saying the company's system to gauge costs was "as robust as we could make it at the time, and continued to try to improve it." (More ExxonMobil stories.)

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