It started last March when New York was joined by Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands in demanding the documents.
“Fossil fuel companies that deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change should be, must be, held accountable, ” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy said at a press conference at the time.
The states gave two reasons for investigating Exxon Mobil: to find out if the company misled investors by hiding what it knew about global warming and to find out if it defrauded consumers.
“The fraud cases are really about people being harmed by climate change and Exxon
Mobil’s product being part of that process at the same time that they’re essentially arguing that the science is not valid,” said David Spence, professor of environmental regulation at UT Austin.
The lawsuits remind some people of the legal actions states filed years ago against tobacco companies.
“I think the parallels are clearly there,” said Tom McGarity, who also teaches law and environment at UT Austin and wrote a book about the tobacco industry. “I think that the tobacco cases inspired this case.”
McGarity said he thinks the company became so afraid of the prospect of multistate lawsuits like what happened with tobacco that it countersued the states.
“There’s something of a Donald Trump approach to things in this: ‘You hit me, I’ll hit you back twice as hard,'” he said. “And just telling the world, ‘Look, you don’t come after Exxon Mobil for something it did in the past.’”