aside ExxonMobil Has A History Of Hiding Its Knowledge On Climate Change Science

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ExxonMobil has for years been acting like the cigarette companies of old by pretending to the detriment of the American peoples that climate change worries are overstated. Just as cigarettes have killed prematurely many Americans as well as lowering the quality of their lives with ill health, companies like ExxonMobil have been doing likewise. Only the repercussions from not facing the reality of climate change will dwarf what occurred with the tobacco industry’s campaign to deny the potential harm to humans from cigarette smoking.

Even the ExxonMobil stockholders have filed suit against it because of the companies’ history of misleading the public about what their own scientists warned their executives about this issue of climate change.

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As per a 8/23/2017 the Verge report by Rachel Becker, “For decades, the oil and gas company Exxon Mobil has waged a public-facing disinformation campaign about human-caused climate change — even as the company’s scientific publications and internal communications acknowledged its reality, a new study says.

“Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes and postdoctoral fellow Geoffrey Supran  analyzed internal, scientific, and public-facing communications from Exxon Mobil. They found the vast majority of the company’s peer-reviewed papers and internal documents confirmed that climate change is real and caused by human activity. But Exxon’s communications with the public through paid editorials, or ‘advertorials’, in the New York Times promoted climate skepticism.”

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Here’s the rest of the story… 

On November 21, 2016, David Hasemyer of Inside Climate News penned the following report, “Class-Action Lawsuit Adds to ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Woes.” (“Investors allege Exxon should have adjusted its accounting of oil reserves based on what it knows about climate change and coming climate action.”)

Excerpts:

“ExxonMobil shareholders have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging it misled its investors and the public by failing to disclose the risks posed to its business by climate change.”

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OIL EXECUTIVES

“The alleged deception resulted in stockholders paying inflated prices for Exxon stock and subjected them to financial losses because the company knew the value of its oil reserves was less than what it was telling investors, according to the lawsuit filed in Texas federal court earlier this month.”

“Exxon has long understood the negative effects of climate change and global warming and their relation to the worldwide use of hydrocarbons,” according to the lawsuit.”

“Exxon understood and appreciated that it was highly likely that it would not be able to extract all of its hydrocarbon reserves and that certain of those assets were ‘stranded.’ Yet Exxon publicly represented that none of its assets were ‘stranded’ because the impacts of climate change, if any, were uncertain and far off in the future.”

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“Exxon is the world’s largest publicly traded company, reporting $1.7 billion in profits the second quarter of this year (2016).

“The lawsuit, which could include hundreds of thousands of investors, seeks unspecified damages to reimburse stockholders for their losses and holds open the option for a judge to bar Exxon from the practices that led to the lawsuit.”

“These allegations of violations of the federal Securities Exchange Act by company officials add to Exxon’s legal woes as the company faces fraud investigations by the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts.”

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Indonesians sue ExxonMobil in US court/ Credit: Sara Schonhardt

“The two investigations are being conducted under the states’ consumer protection laws to determine whether Exxon deceived consumers and investors about the role of its products in contributing to climate change.”

“The class-action suit alleges that Exxon breached its fiduciary responsibility to investors, but the legal bar remains high to prove the company intentionally deceived them.”

“Holding a company legally accountable requires proof that it failed to act responsibly based on its evolving assessments of climate risks, legal experts said.”

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“The investors who filed suit purchased Exxon stock between February and October. They claim the company was aware of the connection between burning fossil fuels and climate change for decades, and understood that coming regulations could restrict development of some hydrocarbon reserves, according to the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Texas.”

“Yet the company continued to file disclosure statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the federal regulatory agency that polices stock sales, saying everything was fine, the lawsuit said.”

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“Exxon’s public statements—submitted to the SEC under the assurance of accuracy—that investors rely on when deciding whether to buy stock were “materially false and misleading” because they failed to disclose a number of factors, according to the lawsuit.”

“The SEC also has reportedly opened an investigation into Exxon to determine whether the company has been forthcoming with investors about climate risks and accounting issues concerning its reserves.”

“Among the cautionary signs that Exxon concealed from investors was the company’s own internal reports from the 1970s concerning climate change, which recognized the environmental risks caused by global warming, according to the lawsuit.”

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“Given the risks associated with global warming and climate change, the Company would not be able to extract the existing hydrocarbon reserves Exxon claimed to have,” according to the lawsuit.”

“As a result, the suit says, a significant portion of Exxon’s reserves should already have been written down; that’s a bookkeeping function that reduces the value of an asset because it has been overvalued.”

“Key to the complaint is the allegation that Exxon’s continued assertion that the company was on solid ground despite internally understating the potential impact of climate change resulted in an artificial inflation of stock values. Stock value took a hit when the company recently announced that it might be forced to write down nearly 20 percent of its oil and gas reserves, according to the lawsuit. It has since rebounded to roughly the price it was selling for in September.”

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“Specifically, the Company acknowledged that it might have to write down 3.6 billion barrels of oil sand reserves and one billion barrels of other North American reserves that Exxon now conceded were not profitable to produce under current prices,” according to the lawsuit.”

“Celia Taylor, a professor of securities and corporate law at the University of Denver, said shareholders will have a much easier task proving Exxon failed to lower the value of its oil reserves than proving it deceived investors about climate change’s role in charting the company’s future.”

Image result for photos of exxon executives in court“That is a tangible element—that the company knew the value of the oil in the ground wasn’t what they knew it to be and failed to assign the true value to the asset.”

“That is a stronger hook than the climate change hook. There would have to be a showing that officers and directors knew climate change posed risks and didn’t disclose those risks because they knew that would have a negative effect on stock value,” Taylor said.”

“That’s a tough task when disclosure requirements lack guidelines on precisely what has to be disclosed specific to climate change, she said.”

“Ryan McConnell, an adjunct professor of corporate law at the University of Houston Law Center, said class-action lawsuits of this type require proof that a company propped up the price of its stock by not disclosing information that would have influenced the stock value.”

“They have to show causation where information from the company moved the stock price,” he said. “Otherwise how do you know the statements mattered?”

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“The next hurdle to overcome in winning a securities fraud case is proving the information related to setting stock prices was intentionally withheld, he said.”

“There is always the debate about what should have been disclosed and when,” McConnell said.”

“The fight is always about interpreting what is disclosed and what isn’t and what material consequence it had.”

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6 comments

  1. Gronda, very relevant post. A few additional thoughts. On May 31, the shareholders voted against ExxonMobil management and now require them to disclose the impact of climate change on their business. There is also a class action suit by employees against the company similar to the shareholders one. Finally, it is my understanding the SEC investigation need only prove that management misled shareholders – it need not be intentional – to be a securities crime. Keith

    • Dear Keith,

      Thanks for the added pertinent information.

      As these lawsuits gain widespread media coverage, I am hoping the resulting data changes the hearts and minds of the vast majority of Americans where the republicans, White Evangelicals and fossil fuel lobbyists’ lies about the seriousness of climate change on our lives, no longer has any credibility.

      Hugs, Gronda

      • Gronda, the story line from naysayers like Myron Ebell is the scientists are fudging the data to keep money coming to their coffers. Yet, he seems to overlook the different placement of the decimal on the conflict of interest with the fossil fuel industry who has been catered to for years. We are talking hundreds of billions, maybe trillions of dollars for the industry versus millions for the scientists. Who is the more likely candidate to fudge numbers – the scientists or management of fossil fuel companies? And, the scientists within ExxonMobil seemed to have gotten it right – it is their management that perfumed the naysaying pig.

        Keith

        • Dear Keith,

          You have the logical comeback. The ones who have the most to gain/ or in this case the most to lose, are the fossil fuel companies.

          Hugs, Gronda

    • Dear Stuart Bramhall,

      I am thrilled that the stockholders have filed suit. The discovery process will inevitably uncover more information about what and when, ExxonMobil executives knew about the harmful effects of climate change.

      Thanks a million for sharing this post with this reblog.

      Hugs, Gronda

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