SEC investigators decide not to punish Exxon for alleged climate change heresy

By Chris White

The Securities and Exchange Commission ended its two-year long investigation into whether ExxonMobil overvalued its assets in the face of future climate regulations, Bloomberg reported Friday.

The SEC sent a letter to the oil company Thursday saying investigators would not recommend enforcement actions at this time, an unnamed source told Bloomberg, The message included a disclaimer stating the probe could be reopened at a later dated. Exxon has wrestled with climate-related probes from the SEC and various state attorneys general for nearly two years.

“[E]xxonMobil cooperated fully with the inquiry, ultimately producing more than 4.2 million pages of documents,” Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri said in a press statement. “After a thorough investigation, including a review of these documents, the SEC issued its closure letter.”

He added: “As we have said all along, the SEC is the appropriate entity to examine issues related to impairment, reserves and other communications important to investors. We are confident our financial reporting meets all legal and accounting requirements.”

SEC’s move to back off Exxon comes among several instances of the courts knocking down legal cases against the Texas-based company. 

A federal court dismissed a slew of lawsuits San Francisco and Oakland, California, waged against the oil producer in January. The judge said the cities failed to prove that global warming would be substantially curtailed if the oil company did not operate inside California. A court also nixed New York City’s lawsuit against Exxon in July.

Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman kickstarted an investigation against Exxon strikingly similar to the one SEC waged in 2016. The New York Democrat’s probe was initially based on claims the oil company downplayed for decades the severity of global warming to the public and investors.

Much of Schneiderman’s probe was based on reports from liberal leaning media outlets InsideClimate News and Columbia University, both of which claim Exxon has known the risks of global warming for decades but kept such knowledge under wraps.

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