Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Uncertainty Monster Stalks Exxon

With a cabal of attorneys general gathering information about Exxon and its withholding of information that it had about the risks of climate change, some, not Eli to be sure, but some who the bunnies would not be surprised to have identified, are seeking to frame the matter as an issue of free speech.


It ain't.

It's a matter of securities law.

Publicly traded companies are required to report known risks to their business

Exxon clearly knew early on that the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions were a threat to their business, and therefore, as soon as they knew this they were required to report it.

Emphasis on as soon as, because they have put some boiler plate into their disclosures recently or at least since the SEC noticed in 2010 that there are climate risks.

Even if Exxon were uncertain, they knew there was a significant risk and they had a duty to report it.

22 comments:

JohnMashey said...

And again, I assume all have read carefully GCSCT 1998.

John Garland said...

Big Tobacco has tried this same strategy of trying to conflate free speech and commercial speech. So does every con man.

Bernard J. said...

"...I assume all have read carefully GCSCT 1998."

An ugly and revealing document, full of logical fallacy and outright untruth, with the self-serving aim of profit over responsibility for minimising damage to the world. And yet completely unsurprising.

Still, they can probably claim the victory they sought, given that their campaign has brought us to the point where there is still no effective mitigation policy in most Anglophone nations.

Everett F Sargent said...

I've decided that this a non sequitur. It is kind of like an individual suing itself. Like the Hansen proxy suit, Hansen's grandchildren sue Hansen, Hansen's parents, Hansen's grandparents ...

But all you shareholders have a voice in XOM's next shareholder meeting ...
http://cdn.exxonmobil.com/~/media/global/files/investor-reports/2016/2016_Proxy_Statement.pdf

If I were in the NYC area I'd go to this ...
Securities Disclosures and Climate Change in View of Peabody and ExxonMobil
http://web.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/climate-change/sec_program_25may-2_1.pdf

Everett F Sargent said...

UCS ...
Background Information on Fossil Fuel Industry Climate Science Deception
http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2016/03/backgrounder-fossil-fuel-industry-climate-science-deception.pdf

metzomagic said...

...I assume all have read carefully GCSCT 1998.

Thanks for that, John. I'm guessing that will be Exhibit A in the upcoming What Exxon Knew case. If that's not a smoking gun, I don't know what is.

Aaron said...

They made the environment much less pleasant for their children.

Mother Nature has no qualms about punishing the children for the sins of the parents.

Gingerbaker said...

Shades of nailing Al Capone for tax evasion. Good luck to the DA's. They are going to need it with a case like that.

If you are cheering this, remember that Exxon, Koch, Murdoch, et al are not being prosecuted for their real crime - a propaganda, political manipulation, and lobbying campaign which has and will continue to harm billions of people.

Russell Seitz said...

When did GCSCT 1998. surface ?

Isn't Candace Crandall Mrs. Fred Singer ?

GCSCT members who contributed to the development of the plan are
A. John Adams, John Adams Associates;
Candace Crandall Science and Environmental Policy Project;
David Rothbard, Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow;
Jeffrey Salmon, The Marshall Institute;
Lee Garrigan, Environmental issues Council;
Lynn Bouchey & Myron Ebell, Frontiers of Freedom;
Peter Cleary, Americans for Tax Reform;
Randy Randol Exxon Corp.
Robert Gehri, The Southern Company;
Sharon Kneiss, Chevron Corp;
Steve Milloy, The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
Joseph Walker, American Petroleum Institute.

neverendingaudit said...

Sir Rud to the rescue:

> You are not going to like how this turns out.

https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/19/the-exxon-climate-papers/#comment-779513

He's doing some pro bono research as we speak, and may even team up with some "normal" lawyers.

The truth is out there.

EliRabett said...

Sir Rud, the lawyer (who knew, not Eli, who cared, dittos) proved that the AGs have enough to bring a case, and dared them to prove it. OK:)

Russell Seitz said...

Note gun in hand of AGU board, aimed at Exxon's head :

As the leaders of AGU... we assure you that if verifiable information becomes available that proves ExxonMobil is currently engaging in the promotion of misinformation about science or adopting positions that are in conflict with AGU’s own, or supporting groups that do, we will end the relationship, as dictated by our policy–at least until the company is able to demonstrate that such actions have ceased.


A petition disiinviting lobbyists and PR flacks including American Petroleum Institute alumni from simultaneously serving on AGU committees is one I might sign.

neverendingaudit said...

Cmon, Eli. It's public knowledge that Sir Rud can know anything:

> Sincerely yours, s/s Rud Istvan, Esq., JD/MBA

http://principia-scientific.org/university-of-queensland-named-and-shamed/

That he was a consultant and other corporate droneships between 1976 and today only shows how invested he is into legal matters that pertain to this actual case.

Did I mention that he was also (almost) an econometrician?

neverendingaudit said...

> But all you shareholders have a voice in XOM's next shareholder meeting ...

Indeed you have.

You can either vote for or abstain from voting.

There are projects to use this voting system in Somalia.

Everett F Sargent said...

Willard,

"You can either vote for or abstain from voting."

There are 11 proposals, XOM states for all 11 ...

"The Board recommends you vote AGAINST this proposal for the following reasons"

I've never been a shareholder or stockholder of anything in my life. I think that I am a communitarian. Or an agnostic. Or something else.

JohnMashey said...

For more analysis of GCSCT, which has been out there for years before I used it in 2010, see Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony (2010):
p.15 where it fits in chronology
pp.19-20 excerpts.

Note especially presence of Myron Ebell, then at Frontiers of Freedom (heavily Exxon-funded), who then moved to CEI.
See p.60 for FF and FF/CSPP
and p.93-95 for funders vs fundees.
CEI and FF did OK.

Then follow Myron around, including key role in promoting M&M's attack on the hockey stick, and the fun letter to Perhach in the White House, p.166.

Russell Seitz said...

Has Crandall succeeded the leader of the pack, A John Adams?

His Washpost obit is intriguing , if you like intrigue-

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/a-john-adams-journalist-public-affairs-specialist/2012/12/20/d0d32cde-4a13-11e2-820e-17eefac2f939_story.html

neverendingaudit said...

I was speaking in general, Everett - you can vote AGAINST the proposals that come from the shareholders, and usually the Board suggest you vote AGAINST them. But you don't really get to vote the Board out.

This document is interesting. Thanks. Some items deserve to be mentioned (shortened a bit):

ITEM 4 – INDEPENDENT CHAIRMAN

That the shareholders request the Board of Directors of ExxonMobil to adopt as policy, and amend the bylaws as necessary, to require the Chair of the Board of Directors, whenever possible, be an independent member of the Board. This policy should be phased in for the next CEO transition.

ITEM 5 – CLIMATE EXPERT ON BOARD

RESOLVED, shareholders request that, as elected board directors’ terms of office expire, the Exxon Mobil Corporation’s Board’s Nominating Committee nominate for Board election at least one candidate who: has a high level of climate change expertise and experience in environmental matters relevant to hydrocarbon exploration and production, related risks, and alternative, renewable energy sources and is widely recognized in the business and environmental communities as such, as reasonably determined by ExxonMobil’s Board, and will qualify, subject to exceptions in extraordinary circumstances explicitly specified by the board, as an independent director.*


The excuse of the Board AGAINST that resolution is worth quoting in full:

The Board recommends you vote AGAINST this proposal for the following reasons:

ExxonMobil’s current process, as reflected in its Guidelines for the Selection of Non-Employee Directors, requires director candidates to have a breadth of experience and demonstrated expertise in managing large, relatively complex organizations and be accustomed to dealing with complex situations with worldwide scope.

The Board must possess the capabilities to address the full range of business risks, from financial to social to environmental, including climate risk. In doing so, the Board leverages subject matter experts, both internally and externally, to share the latest science, analysis, and insights.

Because each director must possess a breadth of expertise and experience, setting aside a seat for an environmental specialist or other single-issue candidate who lacks other important attributes would, in our view, not be in the best interests of the Company or its shareholders because it would dilute the breadth needed by all directors to make informed decisions for the Company. Board members have fiduciary duties to the Company’s shareholders which require them to be informed on multiple issues and work together with other Board members to make decisions on a collaborative basis.

The Board is comprised of members with the credentials, proficiencies, and experience that enable the Board to effectively address climate-related issues. Board members hold nine science and engineering degrees and have relevant experience and leadership in a range of environmental matters, such as water, alternative energies, energy conservation, global climate issue management, and environmental innovation. Further, the Board has access to environmental and climate expertise via periodic briefings by Company professionals whose primary expertise is in the area of environmental management and stewardship. This includes sharing external perspectives on the status of science, research and development, and public policy.

The Company’s core value to ‘Protect Tomorrow, Today’ serves as a foundation for sound environmental management. Our Operations Integrity Management System is an effective and proven framework that aligns our environmental priorities with our business objectives, and has brought about improved environmental performance
for many years.



Auditors could not have written a better "technical" response.

Marlowe Johnson said...

Speaking of the SEC, James Coleman has an interesting paper that compares what companies told regulators vs what they told investors in their SEC filings. Interesting stuff: http://ablawg.ca/2015/04/06/do-corporations-cry-wolf-comparing-what-companies-tell-regulators-with-what-they-tell-investors/

neverendingaudit said...

> "The Board recommends you vote AGAINST this proposal for the following reasons"

Right. I only had in mind the votes regarding the Board members. You are indeed entitled to vote against proposals that leave the Board cold.

The first two proposals deserve due diligence.

Hank Roberts said...

> Marlowe Johnson
Excellent pointer. Someone should tell Stoat ...
Same author has a followup: http://www.energylawprof.com/?p=539
Encouraging Energy Companies to Inform Their Investors About Risks They Face From Climate Regulation

----excerpt----
what if the comments to EPA are accurate—companies really are terrified about new regulations—and they’re just not telling their investors? After all, shareholder groups and proxy advisory firms have complained that energy companies are ignoring Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) guidance on disclosing risks from climate regulation.

In a new post at Columbia Law School’s blog on corporations and capital markets, I explain how industry’s comments to regulators can be used to encourage companies to inform their investors of real risks that they face ...
----end excerpt--- some links in that, see the original page-----

Russell Seitz said...

Climate contrarians aren't the only folks with dodgy risk management playbooks