U.S. Markets open in 3 mins

Exxon Hid ‘Catastrophic’ Climate Prediction, State Suit Says

Erik Larson

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. was sued by Massachusetts for allegedly hiding its early knowledge of climate change from the public and misleading investors about the future financial impact of global warming, two days after a trial started on similar claims in New York.

The 205-page complaint, filed Thursday in state court in Boston, goes further than the suit filed a year ago in New York by alleging Exxon misled the general public as well as shareholders by concealing the looming crisis.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who’s seeking unspecified monetary damages, says Exxon predicted high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as early as 1982 and effectively hid the information.

According to the complaint, Irving, Texas-based Exxon went so far as to disregard the findings of one of its own scientists, who decades ago correctly predicted the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2019 and said that climate change would become “catastrophic.”

Healey, who’s been investigating Exxon since 2016, claims Exxon’s actions violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.

“The Massachusetts attorney general‘s office has filed a baseless complaint three years after announcing its politically motivated investigation, during which they have not interviewed a single Exxon Mobil employee or gathered one piece of evidence from the company,” Exxon said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to refuting the meritless allegations in court.”

Healey said Exxon refused to cooperate with an investigation, so the state gathered information from banks, advertising agencies, New York’s investigation and other sources. Among obstacles Exxon put up, she said, was a lawsuit alleging the probe was politically motivated and an attempt to depose her.

“Exxon has fought us every step of the way,” Healey said in the call. “Internal documents show Exxon tells Massachusetts investors one thing and does another. And that’s illegal.”

The company had previously said the probe in Massachusetts was politically motivated and accused Healey of conspiring with other Democrats and wealthy environmentalists.

Fighting Probe

The suit in Massachusetts also differs from the New York case by alleging Exxon misled drivers who filled up at the company’s 300 gas stations in the state by falsely claiming that it’s “green” gasoline products are better for the environment.

“It’s deeply misleading,” Healey said in a phone call with reporters after the suit was filed. “Exxon says nothing about the greater damages caused by producing and using such products.“

Read More: Big Oil’s Climate Change Reckoning Has Finally Arrived in Court

In the New York trial, Exxon is accused of misleading the public about its use of various proxy costs to account internally for the impact of climate change on its business. Exxon says the metrics are used for two different purposes -- one for future reductions in demand and the other as a stand-in for carbon expenses on specific projects. It says the state is conflating the figures to show a discrepancy where there is none.

Both suits seek to stop Exxon’s allegedly illegal behavior, as well as unspecified monetary damages.

Read More: Exxon Blasts N.Y.’s Climate Suit as Trial Opens Amid Protests

(Updates with comment from Exxon.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Joe Schneider, Steve Stroth

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.