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Mass. Attorney General Healey Sues ExxonMobil For Misleading Consumers And Investors

This 2014 file photo shows an Exxon sign at a gas station in Carnegie, Pa. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
This 2014 file photo shows an Exxon sign at a gas station in Carnegie, Pa. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is suing ExxonMobil, alleging the oil giant is misleading consumers and investors about the role the company's products play in climate change.

“Exxon has known for 40 years about the catastrophic impact burning fossil fuels [has] on our environment,” Healey said in a phone call with reporters on Thursday. “But Exxon didn’t change its business or tell people what it knew. Instead, what Exxon did was engage in decades-long efforts to deceive … and to sow doubt about climate science."

The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that the company’s “deception campaign” is ongoing and violates state consumer and investor protection laws.

“We’re making a claim that Exxon — like those behind the subprime mortgage crisis a decade ago — is intentionally deceiving investors by hiding the systemic risk of climate change to the economy and to its own business,” Healey said. “Exxon claims to investors that the company is prepared for the business consequences of climate change … but internal documents show that Exxon tells Massachusetts investors one thing and does another. That’s illegal.”

The lawsuit also claims that ExxonMobil purposefully deceived Massachusetts consumers who used its products at gas stations across the state.

"ExxonMobil's relentless 'greenwashing' marketing campaign targets consumers with messaging regarding ExxonMobil's purported environmental stewardship, corporate leadership in the realm of environmental and climate protection, and innovative clean energy research, while failing to disclose that ExxonMobil is spending little on clean energy development, and instead is secretly opposing actions to reduce greenhouse gas emission and ramping up production of fill fuels that cause climate change," the 211-page complaint states.

ExxonMobil did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a similar lawsuit against ExxonMobil, the trial for which began earlier this week.

Healey launched an investigation into ExxonMobil's potential misconduct in 2016 after news outlets uncovered documents showing that dating back to the 1980s, the company's own scientists were warning about the role fossil fuels played in climate change. The company sued to stop her investigation, but the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Healey earlier this year, allowing that investigation to continue.

In Thursday's press call, Healey said litigating this case won’t be easy, but, she added, ExxonMobil "can’t hide from their own record and their current on-going deceptions.”

Related:

Miriam Wasser Twitter Reporter, EarthWhile
Miriam Wasser is a reporter for WBUR's environmental vertical.

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