A foolish and expensive law suit should be brought to a quick end.
On October 24, 2018, Barbara Underwood, the Attorney General of New York (NYAG) filed a 91 page complaint against Exxon Mobil Corporation, which in the words of the New York Times headline demonstrated that “New York Sues Exxon Mobil, Saying It Deceived Shareholders of Climate Change.” The elaboration inside the article contained allegations by the prosecutors that Exxon “essentially kept two sets of books when accounting for the effects of climate change” which makes it appear as though the NYAG’s is a cut and dried case of financial fraud for illicit corporate advantage. The asserted bottom line was that the irregularities could cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to shareholders, payable under New York states, aggressive securities law, the 1921 Martin Act, but untold reputational losses for its improper behavior.
The initial impact from reading the Times’ explosive headline is that Exxon Mobil was up to its old tricks of soft-pedaling the risks of climate change regulation in order to prop up the value of its stock. Nothing could be further from the truth, for the history is quite the opposite.
Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and perhaps soon-to-be presidential candidate, suggested earlier this year that reluctant corporations needed to be pressed into addressing climate change.
“Employees want to work for an environmentally friendly company. And then there are the investors. … They want socially responsible investing,” the former New York City mayor and media mogul declared to National Geographic in February.
So it seems likely that Bloomberg privately cheered the news Wednesday that New York’s attorney general had filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil alleging the oil giant deceived investors over its financial risks from climate change regulations.
The suit hit ExxonMobil right in its pocketbook, which is quite the pressure point.
Actually, though, Bloomberg did a whole lot more: He literally bought his way into the case.
That’s right. He used his money to fund a prosecutor on the New York attorney general’s staff, who then worked on the lawsuit.
Several states filed an amicus brief Wednesday on behalf of oil companies as they struggle to fend off a Washington county’s effort to hold them accountable for climate change.
Attorneys general from Indiana, Colorado and Texas, among others, are pushing back against King County’s effort to target Chevron and ExxonMobil for effects related to man-made global warming. They criticized the county for using the court system instead of the legislative process to address climate change.
“To determine liability, the court would need to determine that King County has a ‘right’ to the climate-in all of its infinite variations-as it stood at some unspecified time in the past, then find not only that this idealized climate has changed, but that Defendants caused that change through ‘unreasonable’ action that deprived Plaintiff of its right to the idealized climate,” the coalition wrote in the brief.
By Lindsey de la Torre
Executive Director of the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project.
It has now been one year since public officials in San Francisco and Oakland teamed up with trial lawyers to sue manufacturers over the issue of global climate change. While the cases made headlines, they had much more trouble getting traction in the courts. So, where do manufacturers stand one year later?
In recent months, judges around the country have started putting the brakes on these lawsuits, agreeing with what manufacturers have been saying all along, that these issues are not for the courts to decide. This summer, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup rejected the public nuisance suits by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland. He stated that “the problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case” and concluded that the legislative and executive branches are better situated to address this global issue rather than the judiciary.
As a former governor and senator for Virginia and working with business people in the private sector, I have had thousands of chances to see the strength of our commonwealth’s manufacturing sector and the competition they face in other states and countries.
Today, manufacturing employs some 230,000 hardworking Virginians in well-paying jobs. The work of these men and women contributes more than $42 billion to Virginia’s economy.
So when groups outside Virginia conspire to threaten our proud manufacturing tradition and competitiveness, I say it’s time to flash caution lights. We need to be prepared to fight back. What is this threat? Across America today — from Rhode Island to California and as nearby as neighboring Maryland — specialty trial lawyers and politicians are teaming up to sue manufacturers.
This summer has been a difficult one for environmentalists hoping to use court cases to force energy companies like Exxon Mobil, BP, and Shell to pay for damages associated with global warming. In both New York and California state courts, highly publicized cases filed by the cities of New York, Oakland, and San Francisco failed to persuade judges. Now the cities of Oakland and San Francisco are continuing the fight by filing motions to appeal in the 9th Circuit Court
At the end of June, U.S. District Judge William H. Alsup dismissed the cases, saying that the courts were not the appropriate place to solve the climate change problem.
“The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case,” said Alsup in his decision.
With their busy schedules and tight state budgets, Democratic attorneys general have little in the way of time and resources to advance climate-change policies, which is where billionaire Michael Bloomberg comes in.
The former New York City mayor’s fortune has bankrolled a year-long effort to place privately funded lawyers as “special assistant attorneys general” in at least six states with specific instructions to work on “clean energy, climate change, and environmental interests.”
The program, run through the New York University School of Law, comes as the most disturbing example of the “billion-dollar per year climate industry” gaining access to law-enforcement authority in pursuit of a political agenda, according to a report released Wednesday by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Manufacturers called on the Supreme Court Monday to reverse a California court’s landmark decision ordering companies to pay for lead-paint removal in the state.
The National Association of Manufacturers filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Monday to review and overturn the 2017 California appeals court ruling, which the group argues is an abuse of the legal system that sets a bad precedent for all industry and the broader economy.
This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion to address the public nuisance-based climate lawsuits in California. The event, held just following the one-year anniversary of the first misguided lawsuits in our state, included mayors from California cities and representatives from the California Manufacturers & Technology Association and the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project.
As a mayor, I am deeply concerned about the effects these lawsuits could have on California’s economy and the threats they could pose to manufacturing in our region. I am frankly appalled that any local government would endorse these kinds of lawsuits, which pose great danger to jobs and investment in California. Let me explain why.