Quantcast

NY Top Court Rejects Exxon's Bid to Keep Critical Files Sealed in #ExxonKnew Case

Popular
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Exxon's CEO from 2006 to 2016. NY AG's subpoena seeks PwC records from 2010 to the present.

New York's highest court dealt ExxonMobil a major blow Tuesday when it declined to hear the oil giant's appeal to block New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's subpoena seeking audit documents in an ongoing fraud investigation of what "Exxon Knew" about the link between fossil fuels and climate change.

The Court of Appeals refused to hear Exxon's assertion that the documents were protected under "accountant-client confidentiality" under state law in Texas, where the company is headquartered.


The order affirms that state officials can demand Exxon's auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), to immediately turn over the subpoenaed documents.

A memo from the Attorney General's office states:

"The New York Court of Appeals denied Exxon's request for further review of its claim that an accountant-privilege under Texas law allowed Exxon to withhold documents responsive to a subpoena issued to Exxon's independent auditor, PwC. The Court of Appeals also dismissed as moot Exxon's motion for a stay pending appeal. Exxon's legal claims had been rejected twice previously by lower state courts."

The court did not include an explanation of its decision.

The finding affirms a Manhattan court's ruling last year that: "New York does not recognize an accountant-client privilege, and controlling authority holds that: 'The law of the place where the evidence in question will be introduced at trial or the location of the discovery proceeding is applied when deciding privilege issues,'" as Judge Barry Ostrager wrote.

Exxon has not yet released a comment.

"Today's Court of Appeals order affirms that Exxon and its outside auditor have an obligation to produce all the documents that our office rightfully subpoenaed," Schneiderman said in a statement.

"As we've said from the start, Exxon had no legal basis to interfere with PwC's production," he added. "Our fraud investigation continues to move full speed ahead, despite Exxon's continued strategy of delay."

According to InsideClimate News, "Schneiderman's subpoena seeks PwC records from 2010 to the present related to risks to Exxon's profits from regulations limiting the emission of greenhouse gases, policies discouraging the use or development of fossil fuels; and the potential effects of climate change on the price of oil, gas, and other hydrocarbons."

The legal development comes shortly after Harvard released a breakthrough study of Exxon's internal and external communications on climate change, including scientific research, internal company memos and paid editorial features in the New York Times.

As Climate Nexus noted from the study: "The analysis showed a 'quantifiable discrepancy' between internal and external communications, with 81 percent of external advertisements casting doubt on the link between human activity and climate change despite 80 percent of internal communications acknowledging climate science."

The court's decision was cheered environmental advocates including Climate Hawks Vote president RL Miller, who said, "Exxon knew, and now the world will know."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Eating healthy can help you lose weight and have more energy.

Read More Show Less
arinahabich / Stock / Getty Images

By Sydney Swanson

With April hopping along and Easter just around the corner, it's time for dyeing eggs (and inadvertently, dyeing hands.) It's easy to grab an egg-dyeing kit at the local supermarket or drug store, but those dye ingredients are not pretty.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Aerial of farmland and mountains near Seaward Kaikoura Range in New Zealand. David Wall Photo / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images Plus

By Jordan Davidson

New Zealand's pristine image as a haven of untouched forests and landscapes was tarnished this week by a brand new government report. The Environment Aotearoa 2019 painted a bleak image of the island nation's environment and its future prospects.

Read More Show Less
heshphoto / Image Source / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Eating even "moderate" amounts of red and processed meat increases the risk of colon cancer, according to a new study of nearly half a million adults in the United Kingdom.

Read More Show Less
The view from the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Michigan. Ken Lund / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Sierra Searcy

This week, progressive Democrats and youth advocates are launching a nationwide tour to win support for the Green New Deal. Though popular, the ambitious plan to tackle climate change has struggled to earn the endorsement of centrist Democrats in Rust Belt states like Michigan, the second stop on the tour.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mike Taube / Getty Images

If you are looking for something to do this Easter weekend, why not visit your nearest national park? All sites run by the National Park Service (NPS) will be free Saturday, April 20 as this year's National Park Week kicks off, USA Today reported.

Read More Show Less
A new EPA rule on asbestos does not say anything about the asbestos currently in the environment. Bob Allen / Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed a new rule on asbestos Wednesday that it says will "close the door" on new, unapproved uses. But public health advocates warn the rule could actually open the door to increased use of the carcinogenic fibrous material.

Read More Show Less
A mountain woodland caribou bull in the Muskwa-Kechika Wilderness area in northern British Columbia, Canada. John E Marriott / All Canada Photos / Getty Images

It's heartening, in the midst of the human-caused sixth mass extinction, to find good wildlife recovery news. As plant and animal species disappear faster than they have for millions of years, Russia's Siberian, or Amur, tigers are making a comeback. After falling to a low of just a few dozen in the mid-20th century, the tigers now number around 500, with close to 100 cubs — thanks to conservation measures that include habitat restoration and an illegal hunting crackdown.

Read More Show Less