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Minnesota Attorney General Files Suit Against Exxon, Koch Industries Alleging Companies Mislead Public On Climate Change

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is suing Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM) three Koch Industries companies, and the American Petroleum Institute for misleading the public

Benzinga · -

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is suing Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) three Koch Industries companies, and the American Petroleum Institute for misleading the public on climate-change science to protect their own business interests.

What Happened

Ellison alleges that Minnesota laws prohibiting consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, and false advertising were flouted by the entities. 

The attorney general is seeking an injunction barring further violations, financial restitution, and an order that would require those named in the lawsuit to fund a public-education campaign on climate change.

An Exxon spokesperson told WSJ, “this lawsuit is part of a coordinated, politically motivated campaign against energy companies.” He added, “The claims are baseless and without merit. We look forward to defending the company in court.”

According to Ellison, the penalties involved could reach into billions of dollars.

Why It Matters

Internal climate experts are said to have warned oil company executives for years about the dangers related to global warming, but at the same time, companies were engaged in financing public relations campaigns that misled the public about such dangers, reported WSJ.

Lawsuits against energy companies are becoming more commonplace, and more than a dozen similar suits have been brought by states, cities, and municipalities.

In December, a New York state judge dismissed fraud claims against Exxon after the attorney general in that state failed to prove that the company deceived investors on the costs of climate change regulations.

Last year, a large British institutional shareholder, Legal & General Investment Management, overseeing $1.3 trillion in shares said some of its funds have divested from Exxon over climate change.

This year for the first time, Exxon's oil rival Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) has been pushed by its shareholders to align with the Paris climate pact.

Price Action

On Wednesday, Exxon shares closed 4.71% lower at $44.50.