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Exxon accused of misleading investors over climate change costs

By Francis Jay

Lawsuit claims oil giant massaged figures to make projects look less risky

Oil giant Exxon faces an “unprecedented” lawsuit in the US after being accused of misleading investors over the potential costs of climate regulation to its business.

The case is the first in a growing number of climate change-related actions faced by oil and gas firms to reach court.

The State of New York claims that internal documents show Exxon evaluated new projects based on climate change cost forecasts that were lower than the figures it gave investors. These calculations made investments appear less risky.

Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who led Exxon for a decade, is among those likely to appear during the 15-day hearing.

Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, declared the move a major milestone, and said it was “part of a growing wave of cases that Exxon and other major oil companies are facing, not only here in the United States, but around the world."

report by three universities – Harvard (Massachusetts), George Mason (Virginia) and Bristol (California), released on October 21 – criticised how the oil industry has presented itself in the face of climate concerns. It says: “Over the past few decades, the fossil fuel industry has subjected the American public to a well-funded, well-orchestrated disinformation campaign about the reality and severity of human-caused climate change.”

Exxon denies it has acted unlawfully and claims the case is politically motivated. It says it shared all the necessary information.

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