Investigation broadens into whether Exxon Mobil misled public, investors on climate change

By:  Brady Dennis

More than a dozen state attorneys general gathered in New York earlier this week, ostensibly to announce their support for President Obama’s efforts to combat global warming and to underscore their intention to collaborate on investigations involving climate-related issues.

But the undercurrent of Tuesday’s public announcement, which included former vice president and climate activist Al Gore taking a turn at the podium, was anything but subtle: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his counterparts from around the country vowed to “collectively, collaboratively and aggressively” investigate whether fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil have misled shareholders and the public about what they knew — and when — about the risks of climate change.

“We have heard the scientists; we know what’s happening to the planet,” Schneiderman said. “But there is confusion, sowed by those with an interest in profiting from the confusion and creating misperceptions in the eyes of the American public.”

Schneiderman began investigating ExxonMobil last fall, subpoenaing documents from the company in the wake of reporting by the Los Angeles Times and the online publication Inside Climate News that showed Exxon’s in-house researchers were concerned about climate change from fossil-fuel emissions decades ago, and yet for a long time, the company publicly raised doubts about the science. 

Schneiderman has leeway to undertake such an investigation under both consumer protection laws and New York’s Martin Act, a securities law that protects investors.

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