The SEC has halted its investigation of Exxon over climate risks disclosureThe Securities and Exchange Commission said it found no fault with Exxon's climate risk disclosures. Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

By Karen Savage

The Securities and Exchange Commission has concluded its investigation into Exxon’s potentially deceptive climate change risk communications and has told the company it will take no enforcement action.

The SEC’s investigation centered on how the company determined the risk of future greenhouse gas emission regulations and how it communicated those risks to investors. The investigation, which began in January 2016, also examined Exxon’s policy of not including the value of oil reserves when accounting for that risk.

According to a statement released by Exxon, the SEC said last week that it had concluded its investigation and the company would face no punishment.

The SEC did not respond to a request for comment.

Exxon spokesperson Scott Silvestri said the company cooperated with the SEC inquiry, providing more than 4.2 million pages of documents.

“As we have said all along, the SEC is the appropriate entity to examine issues related to impairment, reserves and other communications important to investors,” Silvestri said in a statement. “We are confident our financial reporting meets all legal and accounting requirements.”

The SEC’s decision has no impact on investigations still being pursued by two state attorneys general.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is investigating whether Exxon deceived its investors by using two different accounting methods—one for communicating climate change risk to the public and another kept private for internal projections.

Amy Spitalnick, spokesperson for Underwood’s office, said New York’s inquiry will continue.

“We’re gratified that multiple courts have now rejected Exxon’s arguments regarding our investigation—fully dismissing Exxon’s lawsuit against our office, and ordering Exxon and its accounting firm to produce the documents we subpoenaed,” Spitalnick said in a statement.  

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is leading a separate investigation to determine whether Exxon deceived shareholders in her state by failing to divulge potential climate change-related risks to their investments. Healey is also looking into whether Exxon violated Massachusetts consumer protection laws by misleading consumers on the impacts of its products on climate change.

Chloe Gotsis, spokeswoman for Healey’s office, said the Massachusetts investigation will also continue.

“The public deserves answers from Exxon about what it knew about the impact of the fossil fuel industry on climate change, and when,” she said.


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