Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A coalition of state attorneys general is investigating whether Exxon intentionally deceived its shareholders and the public about the threat of climate change. (Photo: AP)

Exxon Has No Free Speech Rights to Commit Fraud, say Climate Groups

Exxon's "preemptive strike to shut down the investigation before it is completed should not be countenanced," says Union of Concerned Scientists

Nadia Prupis

ExxonMobil is attempting to evade a growing investigation into its campaign to suppress science about climate change, asking a federal court this week to throw out a subpoena that would force the oil giant to hand over decades of documents to a coalition of state attorneys general.

In its filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth, Exxon argued that the subpoena from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey violated Constitutional amendments on free speech, equal protection, and unreasonable search and seizure.

Healey is part of the coalition investigating whether Exxon intentionally deceived its shareholders and the public about the threat of global warming after its decades-long campaign to suppress climate science was revealed in 2015 by the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News. Healey's subpoena also seeks communications between the oil company and free-market business groups that expressed doubt about the efficacy of contradicting evidence of global warming, Reuters reports.

Healey's office said it was reviewing the motion, but climate advocates said the filing should not be taken seriously.

"No company has a First Amendment right to knowingly provide misinformation about the harm associated with its product," Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Thursday. "State attorneys general, including in Massachusetts, have every right to investigate whether the company's actions amounted to an actionable fraud."

Exxon's "preemptive strike to shut down the investigation before it is completed should not be countenanced," Kimmell said.

The oil company argued in its filing on Wednesday that the subpoena is asking for documents that are outside the statute of limitations and that "the great irony" in the case is that it has "acknowledged the risks of climate change for more than a decade."

Despite that claim, Exxon executives spent last month's shareholder meeting pushing back against proposals that demanded to know how the company would respond to the historic Paris agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"CEO Rex Tillerson misleadingly spoke about uncertainties in climate science, while ExxonMobil continues to fund industry front groups that also sow doubt about the climate risks of burning oil, coal and gas," Kimmell said. "There is more than sufficient evidence to warrant the investigation by Attorney General Healey into whether state laws have been violated."

Healey was the latest to join the game-changing coalition of 17 state attorneys general, including those from California, New York, and the Virgin Islands, to look into the scandal. Exxon is also fighting a racketeering investigation launched by Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker.

The oil company is backed by a smaller group of conservative attorneys general, including those from Texas and Alabama, who announced in May that they would be taking Exxon's side in the fight.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

UN Chief Warns Humanity Is 'Unacceptably Close to Nuclear Annihilation'

"Now is the time to lift the cloud of nuclear conflict for good," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said ahead of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Jake Johnson ·


Coalition Slams UN Food Summit for Peddling 'Corporate-Led False Solutions' to Hunger

"The U.N. has finally made it clear what 'multilateralism' is all about—paying lip service to the people while skewing priorities for the interests of imperialists and monopoly capitalists."

Jake Johnson ·


'Political Malpractice': House Democrats' Bill Wouldn't Add Dental to Medicare Until 2028

"I don't want to see it drawn out to as far as the House has proposed," Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a recent press call.

Jake Johnson ·


'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·


To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo