Charges that Exxon Mobil misled investors on the financial risks of climate change will be heard in court this month after a New York judge gave the green light for a trial.
The litigation dates to October of last year when the New York Attorney General filed suit against the oil giant on behalf of investors victimized by the alleged fraud.
Barry Ostrager, a New York judge, rejected motions on Wednesday night and set a trial to begin next Tuesday.
The lawsuit alleges that Exxon defrauded investors by claiming to fully account for the financial impact of future climate change mitigation policies, when it was not actually doing so.
The suit accuses Exxon of deliberately underestimating the costs, including actions that would be required under aggressive mitigation policies to limit warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), such as those envisioned in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
“As a result of Exxon’s fraud, the company was exposed to far greater risk from climate change regulations than investors were led to believe,” according to the complaint, which said the scheme enabled Exxon to avoid large asset write-downs that would have represented billions of dollars in lost revenue.
The complaint points the finger at the highest levels of Exxon, including former chief executive and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who “knew for years that the company’s representations… were misleading,” the complaint said.
An Exxon spokesman said the New York case against it “is misleading and deliberately misrepresents” the company’s practices for assessing climate policies.
“The New York Attorney General’s allegations are false,” the spokesman said.
“We tell investors through regular disclosures how the company accounts for risks associated with climate change. We are confident in the facts and look forward to seeing our company exonerated in court.”
The lawsuit does not specify damages sought but seeks to force Exxon to cease the alleged fraudulent statements and requires Exxon to pay back amounts wrongly acquired.
In August 2018, the US Securities and Exchange Commission ended an investigation into Exxon’s decision not to write down assets because of future climate change regulations, taking no action against the company.