The attorney general of New York has opened an investigation into both ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy in order to find out whether or not they lied to shareholders and the public about the dangers of climate change.
The firm acknowledged that it had been subpoenaed by the New York attorney general, Eric Schneidermann, for access to emails, financial records and various climate change related files.
The legal sources went on to confirm that the world’s biggest private coal company, Peabody Energy, is also being investigated on similar grounds.
“Exxon Backed Climate Change Denial Groups”
Exxon and Peabody, two of the biggest organisations in the industry of fossil fuels, have been continuously been criticised by science and environmental groups for financially backing climate change denial groups, and for perpetuating myths surrounding the topic.
Two of the contenders for the democratic presidential nominations, Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton, have both piled on the pressure for an investigation into Exxon. This pressure grew even higher when it was revealed that Exxon had known for decades about the risks that climate change presented to the planet, and yet went on spreading false information about the science.
The company has categorically denied any allegations of wrongdoing and said that it had always operated with transparency when it came to the topic of climate change.
Spokesman “Unequivacally Reject Allegations
A spokesperson, Richard Keil, sent out an emailed statement saying:
“We unequivocally reject allegations that ExxonMobil suppressed climate change research contained in media reports that are inaccurate distortions of ExxonMobil’s nearly 40-year history of climate research that was conducted publicly in conjunction with the Department of Energy, academics and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
The legal sources went on to say that the investigation itself would focus on any differences that it discovers between the knowledge that the firm had of climate change and its effects, and what it then reported to the government’s regulatory bodies such as the Securities Exchange Commission.
“Misleading the public and investors”
The source commented saying:
“The fundamental question is whether they were misleading the public and investors by having financial reports inconsistent with what they knew to be the science. It could include the funding of climate denial science. It could involve funding straight science that showed the impact of climate change.”
The investigation was first reported by the New York Times and came in the aftermath of separate investigations by the LA Times and Inside Climate News, which revealed that the company had systematically ignored the findings of its own scientists.
It is thought that much of the investigation will hinge around what is known as the Martin Act, which is a New York statute that may make it easier to reach a conviction than it would be through financial regulations.
The Guardian reported last year that scientists working for Exxon were knowledgeable about the dangers of climate change as far back as 1981. A subsequent investigation by Inside Climate News then pushed this time back into the 1970s. Greenpeace discovered that the firm had spent over $30m with the aim of trying to spread misinformation about climate change.