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Updated: 16th January 2020 03:55 Business

Exxon Mobil prevails in New York climate change lawsuit

A judge on Tuesday ruled in favour of Exxon Mobil in a lawsuit brought by New York state that had accused the oil company of hiding from investors the true cost of addressing climate change.

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Judge ruled no evidence showed investors were misled

A judge on Tuesday ruled in favour of Exxon Mobil in a lawsuit accusing the oil company of hiding from investors the true cost of addressing climate change. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

A judge on Tuesday ruled in favour of Exxon Mobil in a lawsuit brought by New York state that had accused the oil company of hiding from investors the true cost of addressing climate change.

Justice Barry Ostrager in the Manhattan Supreme Court ruled the state attorney general failed to produce any evidence that investors were misled. The case, filed in October 2018, was the first of several climate change lawsuits against major oil companies to go to trial.

"Today's ruling affirms the position Exxon Mobil has held throughout the New York attorney general's baseless investigation," Exxon spokesperson Casey Norton said in a statement. "We provided our investors with accurate information on the risks of climate change."

The lawsuit by the office of New York state attorney general Letitia James said that Exxon Mobil caused investors to lose up to $1.6 billion US by falsely telling them it had properly evaluated the impact of future climate regulations on its business.

James said in a statement that her office "will continue to fight to ensure companies are held responsible for actions that undermine and jeopardize the financial health and safety of Americans." She did not say whether she would appeal.

It also said the company told investors it was projecting the impact of future regulations by using a "proxy cost" of up to $80 per ton of carbon emissions in wealthy countries by 2040, but internally used figures as low as $40 per ton or none at all.

The trial featured testimony from former Exxon CEO and former U.S. secretary of state in the Trump administration, Rex Tillerson, who denied the allegations against the company. (Jefferson Siegel/Reuters)

Exxon Mobil countered that the proxy cost and the internal greenhouse gas costs were distinct and used for different purposes.

Ostrager wrote in Tuesday's decision that the evidence supported the company's argument that the two types of projected costs were "different metrics."

"What the evidence at trial revealed is that Exxon Mobil executives and employees were uniformly committed to rigorously discharging their duties in the most comprehensive and meticulous manner possible," the judge wrote.

The trial featured testimony from investors, experts and former Exxon CEO and former U.S. secretary of state in the Trump administration, Rex Tillerson, who denied the allegations against the company.

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