Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Exxon Fights Back

It was only a matter of time before the biggest oil company in the world, Exxon-Mobil, began to retaliate against lawyers who are suing it for climate change accountability. Readers of this space may remember that confidential company documents made public reveal that the oil company was aware in the mid-70s that its operations and product would lead to global climate change and grave consequences for the planet. {20.10.16} That information was not disclosed to the public. At this point, eight California cities and counties and New York City have sued the corporate giant. It is now hitting back by targeting 30 people and organizations with subpoenas claiming that they are part of a "conspiracy", which it ominously names the "La Jolla playbook", after a meeting between about two dozen people that took place in an oceanfront cottage.  There, it is alleged, a coordinated public relations and legal strategy was hatched against the company. This high risk, offensive strategy indicates the level of paranoia surrounding oil companies and the high stakes in the quest for corporate accountability for catastrophic climate change. The company claims its rights to 'free speech' are being violated. 

Lawyers subjected to the new offense dismiss the company's actions as diversionary, and scare tactics.  They say plaintiffs lawyers are fully entitled to strategize if their clients' interests are in common.  In 2011 Chevron successfully sued the attorney behind a $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment against the company for pollution in the Amazon. Plaintiffs' attorneys point out that one of the organizations represented at the La Jolla meeting was the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a non-profit run by the oligopolists, which encouraged Exxon to make public the scientific information showing the environmental impact of continued fossil fuel use. Instead, Exxon chose to follow a policy it shared with the tobacco industry--concealment.