New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office wants Exxon Mobil to pay investors as much as $1.6 billion in restitution for allegedly hiding the financial costs of climate change from investors.
AG lawyer Kevin Wallace asked for restitution between $476 million and $1.6 billion during opening statements at the Manhattan Supreme Court trial brought against the oil giant by the AG’s office in October 2018.
“We are not telling Exxon how to run its business, it was and always is free to change its business practices. But it has to be honest with investors,” Wallace said.
Wallace said that the Texas-based company deceived the public and investors for years by using two sets of books to account for the rising costs of environmental regulations around the world — and the negative impact it would have on the company’s worth.
“The company failed to manage the risks in the way it promised. The cost of that failure are staggering. Investors are now entitled to the truth and their recompense,” Wallace added.
Wallace argued to the judge, overseeing the bench trial, that Exxon’s alleged agenda to use two different cost metrics internally and publicly went as high up as former CEO Rex Tillerson.
“In fact, Mr. Tillerson was deeply involved with this issue for years,” Wallace said.
The ousted former Secretary of State is expected to be called to the witness stand by both sides some time during the three-week trial.
The gas company’s lawyer, Theodore Wells Jr., called the case “meritless,” “bizarre” and “twisted,” claiming former AG Eric Schneiderman — who initiated the probe against the energy company in 2015 — was apart of a political conspiracy unfairly targeting the company.
“I want to talk about the elephant in the room. Why would the New York Attorney General bring such a meritless case?”
Wells said adding that Schneiderman did a “terrible disservice to the office” by forming a, “political alliance with activists for the purpose of advancing an agenda.”
“They didn’t stay in their lane of objectivity and fairness,” Wells said.
Trial is expected to resume with the AG’s office calling its first witness Wednesday morning.