In a lengthy and detailed post-trial opinion, New York (New York County) Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager has ruled that the New York Attorney General failed to establish that ExxonMobil Corporation made material misrepresentations in its public disclosures concerning how the company accounted for climate change risk.  As discussed below, there are a number of interesting features to Justice Ostrager’s ruling. A copy of Justice Ostrager’s December 10, 2019 opinion can be found here.
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Alleged deficiencies in climate change-related disclosures have been a target of advocacy groups, shareholders, and regulators. The latest example of this phenomenon is the civil lawsuit the New York Attorney General filed on Wednesday against Exxon Mobil Corporation. The NYAG alleges that the company sought to “systematically and repeatedly deceive investors” about the future impacts climate change regulation could have on the company’s assets and value. The lawsuit underscores the fact that climate change disclosures are and will remain under scrutiny and that the claims alleging insufficient or deceptive climate change-related disclosures remain a significant area of corporate liability exposure. The October 24, 2018 complaint can be found here. The NYAG’s October 24, 2018 press release about the lawsuit can be found here.
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exxonThe question whether concerns about climate change-related disclosures might lead to regulatory enforcement actions or even liability claims has been around for some time, but though the concerns have remained, the regulatory actions and liability claims have not really materialized.  However, in the past week, the service of a subpoena on Exxon Mobil Corp. by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has raised the possibility that an enforcement action against the energy giant relating to its climate change-related disclosures may be in the works. The Attorney General’s action also raises the question whether other companies and industries could also be targeted. These possibilities highlight possible corporate climate change-related enforcement and liability exposures.
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