Exxon Faces Skepticism in New York as SJC Arguments Loom

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni on Thursday, November 30, 2017 heard argument on Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s motions to dismiss Exxon’s federal court challenge to their ongoing climate investigations.  Law360 has reported that Exxon faced considerable skepticism, particularly of its arguments that the investigations impinged on Exxon’s freedom to participate in the climate change debate: “You don’t have the right to lie in your securities filings, that’s what they’re investigating,” Judge Caproni is reported to have said.  At the end of the hearing, Judge Caproni ordered additional briefing from both parties, suggesting that, while skeptical, she has not yet made up her mind.

Exxon had not wished to fight its battle against the investigation in New York.  Exxon brought suit in Texas in June 2016, but lost any home field advantage it may have had when U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade transferred the case in March 2017.  “The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York is a proper venue for this case because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in New York City,” he wrote, referring to the March 2016 “AGs United for Clean Power” Press Conference.  Exxon has repeatedly sought to portray the Conference as evidence of undue influence of climate activists on the investigations, though Judge Caproni on Thursday did not seem to believe that argument, saying it relied on “wild leaps of logic.”

On Tuesday, December 4, 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments in Exxon’s appeal of Suffolk Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger’s January 11, 2017 order allowing the Massachusetts AG’s motion to enforce compliance with the civil investigative demand it issued to Exxon.

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