A New York state appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Exxon Mobil Corp should be compelled to turn over records in an investigation into how much the company knew about global warming as it continued to publicly downplay the effects it was expected to have on the fossil fuel industry.
Exxon has been battling subpoenas from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is probing the company for fraud in its public statements about climate change. The appeals court upheld a lower court's decision, rejecting Exxon's argument that the court did not properly consider which state's laws on turning over evidence in an investigation should apply in the case. The investigation is taking place in New York, but Exxon's headquarters are in Texas.
"We respect, but disagree with the court's decision and are assessing our options and potential next steps," said Scott Silvestri, an Exxon spokesman.
"The unanimous appeals court rightly affirmed the lower court's decision and rejected Exxon's frivolous claims, which were merely one of the many tactics the company has employed in its campaign of delay and distraction," said Schneiderman's spokeswoman, Amy Spitalnick.
Exxon is also fighting the investigation in Manhattan federal court, arguing Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is conducting a separate probe, are motivated by politics. On Friday, Schneiderman asked a judge to dismiss Exxon's case.
The investigation has already led to one public revelation: that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who until December was chief executive of Exxon, used a separate email address and an alias, "Wayne Tracker," to discuss climate change-related issues while at the company.
In his filing in federal court on Friday, Schneiderman revealed his office had interviewed witnesses who could help them learn more about the kind of records Exxon might have showing internal discussions about climate change. He described the move as an attempt to keep Exxon from destroying relevant records before they were required to be turned over in the investigation.
The cases are People of the State of New York v PricewaterhouseCoopers and Exxon Mobil Corporation, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 451962/2016, and 1:17-cv-2301 in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.