A suit by Exxon employees over climate fraud will continue in federal courtA federal judge said employees suing Exxon for climate fraud have established credible claims. Photo credit: Eric Thayer/Getty Images

print
By Karen Savage

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that a case brought against Exxon for allegedly deceiving its employees about the risks of climate change will continue.

U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade on Tuesday denied the oil giant’s attempt to stop the suit, Ramirez v. Exxon, that was filed last year. He said the plaintiffs, led by the Pennsylvania Carpenters Pension Fund, had established sufficient claims of securities fraud against the company and several executives, including former chief executive Rex Tillerson.

Alleging the value of their retirement accounts has been endangered, employees filed the suit under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), alleging that the company has fraudulently inflated its stock and misrepresented what it knows about the risks of climate change.

Exxon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kinkeade’s decision comes on the heels of a recent announcement by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was ending its probe into Exxon’s valuation of its reserves and public disclosures about climate risks and the company faced no punishment.

The employees’ suit is not the only one still pending against Exxon, however. In Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey is investigating Exxon for climate change-related deception and New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is continuing an investigation started by former attorney general Eric Schneiderman into possible securities fraud by the company.

Shortly after the investigations began, Exxon filed suit against Healey and Schneiderman in Texas, alleging that the investigations are politically motivated and violate the corporation’s federal constitutional rights, including the right to free speech.

In that suit, Kinkeade initially ruled that Healey must submit to a deposition, but later relented and sent the case to New York, where it was eventually dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni, who called Exxon’s allegations that the investigations are politically motivated a “wild stretch of logic.”