Bloomberg just lost the state lawsuit against Exxon he’s been funding
By Steve Milloy
Milloy’s op-ed today at WashingtonExaminer.com.
A federal judge just dismissed, with prejudice, the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against oil giant ExxonMobil. Like the Trump impeachment saga, it’s been quite a circus with the public spectacle distracting from the behind-the-scenes skullduggery.
The New York attorney general had alleged that ExxonMobil misled shareholders in accounting for the alleged risks of global warming. Supposedly, dating back decades, ExxonMobil had low-balled the costs of future carbon taxes in financial disclosures.
After more than three years of litigation, millions of pages of documents produced, dozens of witnesses, and 12 days of trial, the judge ruled that the crusading attorney general failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Exxon had misled anyone in its climate-related disclosures.
“The Office of the Attorney General produced no testimony either from any investor who claimed have been misled by any disclosure, even though the Office of the Attorney General had previously represented it would call such individuals as trial witnesses,” the court noted.
So although no one had claimed to have been harmed by Exxon’s disclosures, the New York attorney general had sued anyway. If that’s not frivolous and an abuse of the legal process, I’m not sure what is.
The abuse is compounded by the fact that Exxon, much to the chagrin of climate skeptics, has actually advocated for a carbon tax and for the U.S. to remain in the Paris climate accord. Instead of embracing Exxon as an ally, the New York attorney general tried to persecute the company for fraud.
Allegations aside, though, the lawsuit is part of a larger climate activist campaign called “Exxon Knew,” which is based on the unsubstantiated allegation that the oil company “knew” that its products were causing global warming decades ago.
The purpose of the campaign seems to have been merely to turn Exxon into the poster child of global warming villainy via litigation. In addition to bad press, the purpose of the lawsuit was to obtain via legal discovery whatever embarrassing or incriminating documents could be had.
Out of the millions of pages handed over to the attorney general, the most that could be found was a decades-old memo or two in which Exxon employees kicked around the idea of the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on the environment. But this hardly constitutes special “Exxon Knew” knowledge since global warming hysteria had been in the popular media and government reports since at least the 1960s.
The more interesting but barely reported aspect of the litigation is that it has been encouraged and even secretly funded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg.
State attorneys general offices are busy places. They generally don’t generally have time for frivolous litigation, so Bloomberg stepped up to fund law schools, like the one at New York University, to do the climate litigation staff work for the various state attorneys general involved in the litigation, according to emails obtained via public records requests by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Bloomberg has essentially discovered a way for a (wealthy) private citizen to buy a state attorney general and use the state’s powers and resources to pursue his private political agenda. Although there is no specific provision in any law prohibiting such conduct, that is only the case because no one ever imagined that anyone would have the effrontery to do it.
Exxon is not out of the woods yet. The New York attorney general could still appeal, and there is other ongoing litigation, such as the case filed by the Massachusetts attorney general against the company. The “Exxon Knew” campaign is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Bloomberg, who has already spent $1 billion funding climate activism, seems to be committed to spending and doing whatever it takes to advance his agenda.
And there’s also the problem of Exxon’s management, which is weirdly united with climate activists on blaming its own products for bad weather and calling for climate regulation.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Exxon continues to produce about 3.8 million barrels of oil per day, a very small portion of the global production of 100 million barrels of oil per day.
Regardless of frivolous litigation, billionaire-funded climate activism, and misplaced corporate misgiving about their own products, the reality is that we will continue to need all that and more oil and gas to make our lives work for decades to come. You and I are the ones burning these fuels. So sue us.
Steve Milloy, who publishes JunkScience.com, served on the Trump EPA transition team and is the author of Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix EPA (Bench Press, 2016).