Today the Supreme Court dealt a harsh blow to Exxon’s latest attempts to derail investigations into whether the company committed fraud by misleading consumers and investors about climate change. While the decision is unsurprising given the legal infirmity of Exxon’s claims – challenging the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Attorney General – it is a welcome marker by the Court that should give Exxon (and its counsel) pause about continuing to tread on such thin ice with its strained legal arguments.
Exxon has been waging total war against multiple attorney general investigations into the disconnect between the company’s internal knowledge and handling of climate change risks versus the company’s public statements. Exxon’s two major challenges included the jurisdictional gambit it raised in Massachusetts state court and a challenge that Exxon first filed in federal district court in Texas before the suit was transferred to federal district court in New York. Now that the Supreme Court has disposed of the Massachusetts claims, only the second case remains.
In that separate lawsuit, Exxon has deployed arguments from a well-worn corporate playbook in an attempt to expand the bounds of so-called “corporate constitutional rights.” Despite a stinging rebuke from the district court, Exxon appealed that case’s dismissal to the Second Circuit. Free Speech For People worked with leading constitutional scholars to debunk Exxon’s flawed First Amendment claims by filing an amicus brief in the Second Circuit where that case is still pending. Exxon cannot delay the reckoning it faces for its actions on climate change forever. With a strong majority of its investors clamoring for a proactive stance on climate, Exxon would do far better by abandoning expensive, ill-fated litigation strategies and cooperating with the investigations.