NY judge orders Exxon to comply with climate subpoena

NY judge orders Exxon to comply with climate subpoena
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A state judge in New York on Wednesday ordered ExxonMobil Corp. and an auditing firm to comply with a state investigation into the company’s climate science. 

An order from New York Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager directed Exxon’s accounting firm to turn over documents related to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into the company. 

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The judge dismissed Exxon’s contention that a Texas law provides accountant-client privilege and that neither Exxon nor its firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), needs to comply with the subpoena. The judge noted further that New York law does not recognize such privilege. 

The New York Supreme Court is a trial court and not the state’s highest court. An Exxon spokesman said the company “respectfully disagrees with the court’s ruling and intends to take an immediate appeal.”

Schneiderman issued a subpoena to PWC in August, seeking documents related to potential violations of the law relating to the disclosure of the company’s climate change research. He filed a motion earlier this month to compel PWC to turn over the documents he requested. 

“We are pleased with the court’s order and look forward to moving full-steam ahead with our fraud investigation of Exxon,” Schneiderman said in a  statement. 

“Exxon had no legal basis to interfere with PWC’s production, and I hope that today’s order serves as a wake up call to Exxon that the best thing they can do is cooperate with, rather than resist, our investigation.”

Wednesday’s ruling is part of a growing legal fight between Schneiderman, other Democratic attorneys general and the oil giant, which has denied charges it misled the public about its climate research. Though the company has complied with other subpoenas in the case, it still opposes the investigation from Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. 

Earlier this month, Exxon asked a federal judge in Texas to stop the attorneys general from any further investigation into its climate science, alleging a conspiracy against the company and “improper bias and unconstitutional objectives."

—This post was updated at 5:15.