Email Icon Twitter Icon Facebook Icon Youtube Icon

Judges Question Whether Mass. AG Overreached in Energy Investigation

A panel of judges for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments on Tuesday over whether Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey can investigate an energy company that does not operate in her state. Healey is seeking to gain jurisdiction in her own backyard to further investigate ExxonMobil—the same investigation being sought by New York AG Eric Schneiderman—claiming that the company tried to cover up information on carbon emissions.

Here are the key takeaways:

Healey Questioned on Jurisdiction

  • Even if the company’s products aren’t sold in Massachusetts, Healey’s chief legal counsel Richard Johnston alleged that because the company’s national and international advertising appeared in the state, the AG had adequate jurisdiction in making its case.
  • The judges pushed back, repeatedly pressing the counsel to provide evidence that the manufacturer had done or said something in Massachusetts that would give the AG a reason to investigate it.

Debate over Whether Advertisements Should Disclose Climate Change

  • The AG’s investigation concerns whether the energy manufacturer misled its consumers and investors on the science of climate change.
  • The state alleged that it wasn’t necessary for the company to have “deceptively advertised” the effects of gasoline on the climate.
  • He suggested that omitting a discussion of climate change from its advertisements was grounds enough for investigation and, potentially, litigation.

Linda Kelly, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and lead on the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP), citing how much Massachusetts taxpayers have already contributed to the attorney general’s investigation, said this about the oral arguments:

“Today’s proceedings made clear that Attorney General Healey is struggling to gain home-court advantage in her broader mission to make a name for herself at the expense of manufacturers in America. Making matters worse, this political endeavor comes at a high cost to taxpayers, who are already on the hook for over $63,000 as of February. It’s long past time to put an end to this nationally-orchestrated campaign that legal scholars have long said is fatally flawed.”  

As we reported last week, the Schneiderman/Healey investigations are symptomatic of a broader issue within American courts where politically-motivated investigations and cases are being unduly brought against manufacturers.  MAP will continue to follow this case as it develops, holding Healey and her allies accountable for stretching the limits of their power.