New York Judge Rules Against Exxon’s “Misconduct” Claim, Simplifying Climate Change Case

Law analysts see it as a possible precedent-setting case in utilizing climate change against oil and gas companies…Case doesn’t directly stem from any climate change-related laws…Judge tells NY AG’s office it will either prove securities or financial fraud — or it won’t

 

June 13, 2019

 

Lawyers for ExxonMobil continue to prepare for an October 23rd “climate change” trial after a New York judge blocked some of the Irving-based company’s lines of defense.

Exxon had proposed to the court that New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who began the investigation against the oil company, was working with a climate “activist agenda.”

Schneiderman three years ago began an inquiry claiming that the company misled its investors about the potential dangers of climate change,

That investigation led to the state’s current lawsuit against Exxon, which law analysts see as a possibly precedent-setting case in utilizing climate change against oil and gas companies.

New York Supreme Court Judge Barry Ostrager on Wednesday dismissed the Exxon “activist” claim that Schneiderman engaged in “official misconduct” when he began the investigation three years ago.

The lawsuit was filed in October 2018, months after Schneiderman left office, under New York state statutes against securities and financial fraud — called the Martin Act — based on the climate change allegations

Schneiderman resigned in May of last year after claims he physically assaulted four women; the case was taken up by his replacement, Letitia James, for whom the judge’s rulings are seen as a major victory, according to Climate Liability News.

The judge, however, appeared to be simplifying the case parameters, telling the attorney general’s lawyer during Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing that, “At the end of the day you’re going to either prove a Martin Act violation or not.”

Exxon’s only remaining “affirmative defense” is that the attorney general’s office engaged in selective enforcement when it sued because the probe was brought in bad faith, according to Bloomberg.

There is another pre-trial hearing set for June 23rd in New York — meanwhile Wednesday’s hearing triggers the beginning of pre-trial discovery.