New York Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrander ruled on Tuesday morning that ExxonMobil did not commit fraud in any of its climate change-related disclosures to shareholders.
“The Office of the Attorney General failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that ExxonMobil made any material misstatements or omissions about its practices and procedures that misled any reasonable investor,” Ostrager said.
The ruling concludes a years-long search by the State of New York’s attorney general’s office to find something, anything on which to hang its hat in making a viable climate change-related case against the nation’s largest oil and gas company. The case germinated under former Attorney General Eric Schniederman as a claim that “Exxon knew” that carbon dioxide was a major culprit in creating global warming as far back as the 1950s, but withheld such proof from the public so it could continue to profit from its oil and gas business.
When Schneiderman was forced to resign under the cloud of scandal in May 2018, the current Attorney General, Letitia James, inherited the case as the “Exxon knew” theory promoted by the climate alarmist community had become thoroughly debunked. Ms. James then shifted the focus to attempting to form up a fraud case surrounding the company’s public disclosures about the impacts of climate change on its future business activities.
At issue were the methods used by ExxonMobil to assess such potential impacts, which the AG attempted to portray as so misleading that they had caused at least $1.6 billion in damages to shareholders. In pursuing her case on behalf of the alarmist community, her real constituency in the case, Ms. James ignored the reality that, in August 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission had concluded an investigationof ExxonMobil over the same issues and found no reason to assess any penalties on the company.
During the course of the trial, it became obvious to all observers that the state’s case was pitifully weak, with the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal at one point calling it “A Parody of a Climate Trial.” In making her closing arguments, AG James appeared to concede her own weakness, taking the extraordinary step of actually withdrawing two of her three claims of fraud in the midst of her own arguments.