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Exxon in Hot Seat as SEC Investigates Oil Giant Over Accounting for Climate Change

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Exxon in Hot Seat as SEC Investigates Oil Giant Over Accounting for Climate Change

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating how ExxonMobil valued its assets during the continuing slump in oil prices and how the company factors in climate risk when pricing its projects.

Minale Tattersfield / Flickr

The SEC requested information and documents from Exxon and the company's auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, in August, as well as documents from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's similar investigation of the company. Exxon has been under increasing government scrutiny since multiple reports revealed the oil giant may have misled the public about the dangers of climate change.

"This is a remarkably important development—the federal government is joining the courageous state attorneys general, and they're all following the trail of clues that began with powerful investigative journalism," Bill McKibben, 350.org co-founder, said. "Before they're done we'll understand considerably more about how the world overheated—but in the meantime, every institution that invests in Exxon should take real note of who you're keeping company with."

"This investigation is a welcome opportunity for transparency from the fossil fuel industry," Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard said. "We know Exxon has published projections showing that demand for oil and natural gas will continue growing for decades to come—projections which are flatly incompatible with limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, as called for by the Paris climate accords. What we don't know is how Exxon's balance sheet would change if the world meets the climate challenge."

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