SEC drops Exxon climate-change probe in latest blow to #ExxonKnew campaign
The Securities and Exchange Commission has dropped its probe into whether ExxonMobil misled investors about climate change, the latest blow to the environmental movement’s bid to pin global warming on the oil-and-gas industry.
In a statement, Exxon confirmed that the SEC wrapped up Thursday its investigation into “the company’s climate change disclosures, impairments, and reserves and does not intend to recommend an enforcement action against the company.”
The company said it “cooperated fully,” producing more than 4.2 million pages of documents during the two-and-a-half year investigation.
“As we have said all along, the SEC is the appropriate entity to examine issues related to impairment, reserves and other communications important to investors,” said Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri. “We are confident our financial reporting meets all legal and accounting requirements.”
His statement came as an apparent jab at the Democratic attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts, who are still probing whether Exxon committed “climate fraud” by downplaying risks to investors and consumers related to rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
Amy Spitalnick, spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, said Friday the office’s investigation “remains ongoing” despite the SEC’s decision.
“We’re gratified that multiple courts have now rejected Exxon’s arguments regarding our investigation fully dismissing Exxon’s lawsuit against our office, and ordering Exxon and its accounting firm to produce the documents we subpoenaed,” she said in an email.
Elsewhere, however, the multi-prong campaign to hold the fossil-fuel industry responsible for climate change has been leaking oil following federal court defeats and Wednesday’s damaging New York Times report debunking the #ExxonKnew narrative.
A dozen liberal cities have filed lawsuits seeking potentially billions in compensation from top energy companies, including Exxon, but federal judges recently dismissed cases filed by New York City, Oakland and San Francisco, saying the climate issue should be decided by the executive and legislative branches.
Officials in those cities have said they plan to appeal the federal rulings.
The SEC investigation, launched in January 2016, came a few months after former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman undertook a state securities probe into whether Exxon hid the risks of global warming from its investors, which the company has staunchly denied.
Mr. Schneiderman, who resigned in May over physical abuse allegations made by four women, confirmed the Exxon investigation’s existence in early November 2015, two months after InsideClimate News ran a lengthy report accusing Exxon of being insufficiently forthcoming with its early climate research.
The report, a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in public service, became the catalyst for the #ExxonKnew movement.
That campaign suffered a blow Wednesday with the release of a lengthy New York Times Magazine report saying that ”[e]verybody knew” about the potential for climate change as early as the late 1950s, not just the oil industry.