ExxonMobil Fires Back at NY AG’s ‘Inflammatory’ and ‘False’ Allegations

ExxonMobil fired back at New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a court filing today, accusing him of pandering to the media and misrepresenting facts to serve his own political agenda. The filing comes a week after Schneiderman published some of the company’s sensitive internal documents and accused  it of overstating the threat of climate change, a complete reversal of his previous accusations.

ExxonMobil pulled no punches in its filing, and its opening paragraphs are worth printing here in full:

Prepared for the press rather than this Court, the Attorney General’s brief amply demonstrates why the challenged subpoenas should be quashed. Filled with inflammatory, reckless, and false allegations of an “ongoing fraudulent scheme” and “sham” business practices, the Attorney General’s brief was filed with this Court minutes before detailed press accounts appeared describing his baseless claims. This rapid and widespread media coverage was the intended consequence of the Attorney General’s providing advance copies of the brief to the media days before filing it with the Court, a troubling fact confirmed by members of the media. Providing a brief to the press in advance of filing is textbook pandering.

No further evidence is required to establish the political motivation of the Attorney General’s fruitless year-and-a-half long investigation purs[u]ing his ever-shifting and unravelling investigative theories. It is an abuse of the powers of his office and the court system itself, furthering only the Attorney General’s transparent political ambitions and ultimately bound to taint a prospective jury pool, thereby depriving ExxonMobil of a fair trial in the event this political witch hunt were to reach that unlikely stage. As the Supreme Court so aptly stated 80 years ago, a government attorney’s interest “is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done…while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.” (emphasis added)

Having firmly established that Schneiderman’s investigation is nothing more than a political witch hunt, the company dismissed the AG’s accusation that it misled investors on how it applies a proxy cost on carbon:

He complains about finding no evidence of the “consistent application of a proxy cost” in the 2.8 million pages of ExxonMobil documents already produced in this case, but points to no instance where a cost of carbon was not applied but should have been. For a prosecutor proceeding in good faith, the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing is grounds for closing an investigation, not expanding it. Even more frivolous is the Attorney General’s claim that it was inappropriate to use the actual cost of carbon in Alberta, Canada when measuring overall project cost, rather than hypothetical figures. There is no basis in law or logic to find fault for relying on actual costs when available. And the idea that ExxonMobil was obligated to apply hypothetical costs of possible future policies when estimating reserves finds no support in, and would in fact contradict, relevant SEC policies. (emphasis added)

In other words, Schneiderman faults ExxonMobil for applying real-world numbers to its specific project estimates instead of hypothetical figures designed for other jurisdictions. Under the relevant guidelines, the company is doing precisely what it is required to do.

But this investigation was never about the law. As ExxonMobil notes in its filing, “From the outset of this investigation, it has been clear that the Attorney General is working backwards from an assumption of ExxonMobil’s guilt, searching in vain for some theory to support his prejudgment.”

The New York AG has already changed his justification for opening the investigation twice in three years, but thus far his fishing expedition has come up dry. How much longer will Schneiderman continue to waste taxpayer resources on an empty political crusade?

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