New York Attorney General Drops Half Its Fraud Case In Closing Arguments
Lower Manhattan. November 7, 2019.
The downsized “Exxon knew” trial in New York City has ended. The parties await a verdict from Judge Barry Ostrager in the New York Supreme Court. A 3-year investigation by the New York Attorney General into some 4 million pages of Exxon documents—with millions of dollars of funding by Michael Bloomberg and the Rockefeller trusts—has ended in a whimper.
At one time it was supposed to be the biggest trial in American history—involving claims that Exxon (and/or Mobil) covered up knowledge by the fossil fuel industry that CO2 would cause apocalyptic climate change back in the 1970s or 1980s—or some time. But the government investigation fizzled. ExxonMobil has consistently tracked and gone public with a position on climate change which closely tracks that of the government establishment. (Contrary to popular belief, ExxonMobil has never spent more than a pittance on ‘climate skeptical’ research; and in fact the oil giant now spends millions promoting the unfounded doomsday theories of the government.)
By 2018, the NY AG was reduced to filing a suit alleging merely that ExxonMobil had knowingly given inaccurate future projections regarding the future cost of carbon regulations.
Even THAT case has turned out to be unfounded. When the NY AG made closing arguments on Thursday, November 7, after a three-week trial, its counsel admitted the State could not prove two of four of the civil allegations in its complaint.
According to Law360.com:
Moments after government counsel began laying out its closing argument, Justice Ostrager interrupted to clarify that the attorney general was formally stipulating that two claims, one for common law fraud and another for equitable fraud, would be dismissed with prejudice in the final minutes of New York’s carefully-watched case against the oil giant.
Thus what remains of the case were negligent-inaccuracy claims under New York’s Martin Act. The Martin Act, unlike common law fraud, does not require any actual proof of fraudulent intent. Thus, the NY AG is no longer arguing that the oil giant deliberately defrauded anyone.
What remained of the multi-million-dollar investigation are two claims that some of Exxon’s internal documents gave price-per-ton-of-carbon-in-2040 figures that differed from its figures published in some glossy public reports. ExxonMobil argues the differing figures represent different projections: the published numbers are estimates of DEMAND in 2040 while the internal numbers are estimates of future COSTS and taxes.
Thus, the issues in the trial “revolve around relatively narrow questions of New York securities law,” in the words of Inside Climate News.