Exxon Pushes Back |Against Records Request

     FORT WORTH (CN) – ExxonMobil asked a federal judge Wednesday to quash Massachusetts’ demand for decades of records over whether it lied to investors about its knowledge of climate change, calling it a political manuever.
     The Irving-based energy giant sued Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Tracy Healey in federal court. It says Healey, a Democrat, issued the subpoena in April after she appeared at a press conference in March with other attorneys general.
     ExxonMobil says she pledged “quick, aggressive action” to “address climate change and to work for a better future” by announcing an investigation into the company.
     “The Massachusetts Attorney General’s [civil investigative demand, or CID] purports to investigate whether ExxonMobil committed consumer or securities fraud by misrepresenting its knowledge of climate change in marketing materials and communications with investors,” the 33-page complaint states. “It’s allegations, however, are nothing more than a weak pretext for an unlawful exercise of government power to further political objectives. The statute that purportedly gives rise to the investigation has a limitation period of four years.”
     The demand imposes a “breathtaking burden” because the company “would need to collect and review millions of documents to comply,” ExxonMobil said.
     “Worse still, the CID targets ExxonMobil’s communications with the attorney general’s political opponents in the climate change debate – i.e., organizations and individuals who hold views about climate change,and the proper policy responses to it, with which, based on her statements at the press conference, Attorney General Healey disagrees,” the lawsuit states. “The organizations identified by the CID each have been derided as so-called ‘climate deniers,’ meaning that they have expressed skepticism about the science of climate change or Attorney General Healey’s preferred modes of addressing the problem.”
     ExxonMobil seeks an injunction barring enforcement of the demand and declaration of abuse of process and violations of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Article One of the U.S. Constitution.
     The company is represented by Patrick J. Conlon with ExxonMobil in Houston, Ralph H. Duggins with Cantey Hanger in Fort Worth, Theodore V. Wells with Paul Weiss in New York and Nina Cortell with Haynes Boone in Dallas.
     ExxonMobil says Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker was also at the press conference announcing Massachusetts’ investigation. The company sued Walker in Federal Court in April, making similar accusations that his own demand for climate change records are a “fishing” expedition.
     It said the U.S. territory’s anti-racketeering law has a statute of limitations that requires the occurrence of fraud within five years.
     “For more than a decade, however, ExxonMobil has widely and publicly confirmed that it ‘recognize[s] that the risk of climate change and its potential impacts on society and ecosystems may prove to be significant,” the April complaint stated.
     ExxonMobil said it could not have broken the law in the Virgin Islands because it has no physical presence there.
     Texas and Alabama intervened in the Walker lawsuit law month, claiming his use of New York-based law firm Cohen Milstein to issue the subpoena violates the First Amendment. The states allege the law firm’s alleged contingency fee arrangement for its work is an “unconstitutional delegation of prosecutorial power.”

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