Exxon wins New York climate fraud lawsuit

"Nothing in this opinion is intended to absolve ExxonMobil from responsibility for contributing to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gasses in the production of its fossil fuel products."


Exxon Mobil has come out victorious in the massive climate fraud lawsuit brought against them by the state of New York.

The lawsuit, which was only the second climate change lawsuit in history to reach trial in the United States, was brought against the Big Oil corporation by the New York Attorney General’s Office. Prosecutors in the case argued that Exxon caused their investors to lose nearly $1.6 billion when they kept the true cost of the climate crisis from them.

The presiding judge, Justice Barry Ostrager, pointed out that the ruling does not absolve ExxonMobil from responsibility but rather that the attorney general failed to prove the Exxon intentionally defrauded their investors:

“Nothing in this opinion is intended to absolve ExxonMobil from responsibility for contributing to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gasses in the production of its fossil fuel products,” Ostranger wrote. But, he added, “this is a securities fraud case, not a climate change case.”

The case took four years of preparatory work and was finally filed in October 2018. Its trial lasted for three weeks. The lawsuit claimed that Exxon told investors that they were estimating the impact of future regulations due to climate change by using a “proxy cost” of up to $80 per ton of carbon emissions in wealthy countries by 2040 when internally they were using figures as low as $40 per ton. The two sets of numbers kept by the company allowed them to show investors less vulnerability while maintaining more accurate figures internally.

Exxon released a statement praising the ruling, stating that it “affirms the position ExxonMobil has held throughout the New York Attorney General’s baseless investigation. We provided our investors with accurate information on the risks of climate change.”

The Big Oil company also slammed the New York Attorney General’s efforts, stating: “Lawsuits that waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money do nothing to advance meaningful actions that reduce the risks of climate change.”

Attorney General Letitia James responded to the ruling:

“Throughout this case, we laid out how Exxon made materially false, misleading, and confusing representations to the American people about the company’s response to climate change regulations.

“Exxon’s inability to tell the truth further underscores the lies that have been sold to the American public for decades,” she said. “Despite this decision, we will continue to fight to ensure companies are held responsible for actions that undermine and jeopardize the financial health and safety of Americans across our country, and we will continue to fight to end climate change.”

Exxon may be out of the woods when it comes to the state of New York, but the Massachusetts attorney general filed a similar lawsuit in October and several other states and local governments have filed suits against Exxon and numerous other oil and gas companies for their role in adding to the climate crisis.


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Ruth Milka started as an intern for NationofChange in 2015. Known for her thoughtful and thorough approach, Ruth is committed to shedding light on the intersection of environmental issues and their impact on human communities. Her reporting consistently highlights the urgency of environmental challenges while emphasizing the human stories at the heart of these issues. Ruth’s work is driven by a passion for truth and a dedication to informing the public about critical global matters concerning the environment and human rights.