Rex Tillerson CEO Exxon
Investigations by Inside Climate News and The LA Times have shown that Exxon Mobil, like the tobacco industry in the 1950s, knew about the damage their product was causing, hid the evidence and then funded “think tanks” and PR agencies to deny the science that company scientists had earlier communicated to company executives. (Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago: Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions. By Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer Sep 21, 2015)
..Corporations have used “the science isn’t settled” and “we will lose American jobs” and “we will agree with regulating “xyz” as soon as the science is settled” line of reasoning since at least the 1960’s. The then secret record of the corporate malfeasance of tobacco company employees, much of it now public due to court proceedings, shows that our neighbors, as senior and mid-level corporate managers can clearly mislead, obfuscate and lie for decades when their corporate profits and personal careers are threatened. ..
..It is clear from example after example that we, who would be horrified if our neighbors or our own children lied and cheated at the weekend little league baseball game, have no scruples about lying to each other as corporate employees, or being lied to by our federally elected representatives….
Well here we are again. The last time a major industry (Big Tobacco) was investigated for intentional lying, the case was brought by the Clinton Justice Department, and was nearly killed by the Bush Justice Department. “Big Tobacco” got off with a slap on the wrist. No executives were penalized. (See Judge rules against Big Tobacco,
Let’s see what happens this time. Below are extracts from
- Comments 0n the Exxon case by Bill McKibben
- Calls from two Democratic Congressmen and Senator Bernie Sanders for a DOJ Exxon investigation
- Commentary from the DOJ attorney who prosecuted the Big Tobacco case
- Links to summaries of the judgments against Big Tobacco
Bill McKibben (350.org) has been an uber activist in the climate change world for many years. Here he is in The Nation: Exxon Knew Everything There Was to Know About Climate Change by the Mid-1980s—and Denied It
..This (scandal) comes from months of careful reporting by two separate teams, one at the Pulitzer Prize–winning website Inside Climate News, and other at the Los Angeles Times (with an assist from the Columbia Journalism School). Following separate lines of evidence and document trails, they’ve reached the same bombshell conclusion: ExxonMobil, the world’s largest and most powerful oil company, knew everything there was to know about climate change by the mid-1980s, and then spent the next few decades systematically funding climate denial and lying about the state of the science.
So what? The US Media and Americans are so inured to corporate malfeasance that this reporting hardly caused a ripple until tweets from Democratic Congressmen began:
Members of Congress are asking for a federal investigation into Exxon Mobil.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek) wrote a letter Wednesday to Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch asking the Department of Justice whether the company violated the law by “failing to disclose truthful information” regarding climate change.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders asked the Department of Justice Tuesday to investigate ExxonMobil for sowing doubt about climate change after the company’s own scientists had confirmed and accepted the role of fossil fuels in global warming.
“We are writing concerning a potential instance of corporate fraud—behavior that may ultimately qualify as a violation of federal law,” said Sanders’ letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Emily Atkin of the blog Climate Progress interviewed Sharon Eubanks the DOJ attorney who won the case against Big Tobacco in 2006. Note particularly the part played by politics in the portion below I have emphasized.
A former U.S. Department of Justice attorney who prosecuted and won the massive racketeering case against Big Tobacco thinks the agency should consider investigating Big Oil for similar claims: engaging in a cover-up to mislead the public about the risks of its product.
Sharon Eubanks, who now works for the firm Bordas & Bordas, told ThinkProgress that ExxonMobil and other members of the fossil fuel industry could be held liable for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) if it’s discovered that the companies worked together to suppress knowledge about the reality of human-caused climate change….
“I think a RICO action is plausible and should be considered,” she said.
Many have compared the situation to the actions of the tobacco industry. In 2006, a federal judge found that the big tobacco companies colluded to “deceive the public” about the health hazards of smoking, which amounted to a racketeering enterprise. The reason they did it, Eubanks said, was to avoid health regulations and save money….
“The cigarette companies actively denied the harm of cigarette smoking, and concealed the results of what their own research developed,” she said. “The motivation was money, and to avoid regulation.”
…“It appears to me, based on what we know so far, that there was a concerted effort by Exxon and others to confuse the public on climate change,” Eubanks said. “They were actively denying the impact of human-caused carbon emissions, even when their own research showed otherwise.”
In addition to giving millions of dollars to politicians and groups that deny climate science, ExxonMobil helped found the Global Climate Coalition, “an alliance of some of the world’s largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions,” according to Inside Climate. Exxon’s company leaders also argued against the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to fight climate change which the U.S. refused to sign. Exxon reportedly advised then-President George W. Bush not to sign it.
… Last week, Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley tweeted his support for an investigation, drawing yet another parallel to the tobacco industry.
“We held tobacco companies responsible for lying about cancer,” O’Malley said. “Let’s do the same for oil companies and climate change.”
However, Eubanks warned that if the charge is anything like the tobacco case, a DOJ investigation would need bi-partisan support — or a Democratic-controlled Congress and White House — to be successful. She recalled dealing with a Republican-controlled Congress during the prosecution of the tobacco industry, and then later, a Republican president who did not want to see the industry hurt.
“We filed the case under the Clinton administration, and we struggled with budget issues — many of the Republicans pushed hard to push us down,” Eubanks said.
After Bush was elected, the environment at the DOJ worsened. “They were trying to choke the case off,” she said. “It was a long time ago, but i still get queasy feeling when I think about working seven-day weeks all the time, and a nine-month trial, to see these people trying to kill the case.”
She did eventually win the case, but at a cost, Eubanks said. Instead of the $130 billion her team had sought, Bush administration loyalists pushed her team to seek only $10 billion, she said.
“I can’t tell you that it clears every hurdle,” she said. “I’m not an environmental lawyer. But I know it’s important…This is more important than just running a case. That much I’m sure of.”
Below is the link from the Washington Post re the intense political pressure applied by the Bush Administration to eliminate any sanctions on Tobacco company executives:
…”The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said,” Eubanks said. “And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public.”
Eubanks, who served for 22 years as a lawyer at Justice, said three political appointees were responsible for the last-minute shifts in the government’s tobacco case in June 2005: then-Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, then-Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler and Keisler’s deputy at the time, Dan Meron.
News reports on the strategy changes at the time caused an uproar in Congress and sparked an inquiry by the Justice Department. Government witnesses said they had been asked to change testimony, and one expert withdrew from the case. Government lawyers also announced that they were scaling back a proposed penalty against the industry from $130 billion to $10 billion….
Links to details of the tobacco case:
Links to Exxon behavior: