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ExxonMobil Wins Skirmish in Climate Change Probe as Virgin Islands AG Withdraws Subpoena

ExxonMobil Corp. has scored a win in the wide-ranging inquiry into its climate change research, with the Virgin Islands Department of Justice agreeing to withdraw a subpoena that was requesting years of internal documents.

The supermajor has been battling allegations that officially were instigated last fall by New York Attorney General (AG) Eric Schneiderman, who claims ExxonMobil misled investors about how its operations may impact climate change (see Daily GPINov. 6, 2015). Schneiderman, who is seeking decades of internal company research, financial records and emails, was joined in his investigation by 15 state AGs, the Virgin Islands and Washington, DC, but only Massachusetts, California and the Virgin Islands to date have pursued direct inquiries (see Daily GPIApril 15). Many other state AGs and GOP leaders are opposed (see Daily GPIJune 22).

Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker, who also subpoenaed dozens of advocacy groups and conservative think tanks, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), withdrew his subpoena Wednesday.

"After conferring on the matter, the parties mutually agreed that Attorney General Walker will withdraw the subpoena and ExxonMobil will stipulate to the dismissal without prejudice of this action," according to a filing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas [4:16-cv-00364-K].

Withdrawing the subpoena, Walker said, would allow the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) "to focus on its ongoing investigation, without the distraction of this procedural litigation." An "ongoing investigation" by federal officials has not been confirmed. U.S. AG Loretta Lynch told Congressional members in a March hearing that DOJ had received information about potential fraud actions against ExxonMobil but said it had been "referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for what we could take action on" (see Daily GPIMay 27).

Walker said he plans to "continue to work with our state partners to advance our common investigation, while preserving our limited resources to address the many other issues that face the Virgin Islands and its residents."

The anti-ExxonMobil investigation has never been substantive, said CEI President Kent Lassman. Walker's "subpoenas are a flagrant violation of the First Amendment, and the clear conclusion to draw following his withdrawal of the ExxonMobil subpoena is that these subpoenas were a baseless fishing expedition from the beginning."

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