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August 8, 2019 2:15 PM, EDT

Exxon Is Discouraging Witnesses in Climate Suit, N.Y. Says

Exxon gas station as sun sets Exxon says the New York Attorney General's office is taking too long to disclose its list of third-party witnesses. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

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New York accused Exxon Mobil Corp. of trying to discourage potential witnesses in a state lawsuit alleging the oil and gas company misled investors about the financial impact of climate change.

Exxon is swamping investors and financial advisers who may be called to testify with demands for documents already covered by the state’s own subpoenas, lawyers for New York Attorney General Letitia James said Aug. 7 in a letter to a judge in Manhattan.

“Third parties cannot reasonably be expected to make vast document productions, sit for depositions, and testify at trial in a matter of weeks, and Exxon Mobil’s attempt to require them to do so is likely aimed at discouraging their trial testimony,” the letter said.

 New York Attorney General Letitia James

James

The requests are “unreasonable by design,” the AG’s office said in an earlier letter to the court. One potential witness has already backed out as a result, it said.

“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Exxon’s lawyers said in a letter to the court responding to the claim. Exxon is merely trying to “rectify the consequences” of the AG’s office taking too long to disclose its list of third-party witnesses, they said.

New York sued Exxon in October after a three-year probe that reached the highest levels of its leadership. The lawsuit focuses on Exxon’s use of so-called proxy costs for carbon to calculate the financial impact of future regulations on the business. The state claims Exxon sought to “deceive investors into believing that the company was managing the risks of climate-change regulation.” Exxon says the suit is meritless and “tainted” by “closed-door lobbying” by environmental interests.

The Democratic attorney general and the Irving, Texas, energy company are jockeying for the upper hand ahead of a trial set to start Oct. 23.