House panel chairman asks SEC about reported ExxonMobil inquiry

A US House of Representatives committee chairman asked the Securities and Exchange Commission for information regarding the financial regulatory agency’s recently reported investigation of ExxonMobil Corp. The committee is troubled by reports that the inquiry’s investigative actions “are couched in concerns related to climate change,” Chairman LaMar Smith (R-Tex) said in a Sept. 29 letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White.

“More disturbingly, media coverage has directly linked the commission’s ‘far-reaching’ inquiry to New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman’s (D) ongoing investigation into Exxon under state securities fraud law,” Smith said. “The committee is currently investigating the New York AG’s Exxon probe in order to assess the adverse effects his investigation might pose to the scientific research and development enterprise.”

The SEC would neither confirm nor deny that such an investigation is taking place. ExxonMobil has issued a statement saying it would cooperate in such an inquiry.

Committee Republicans have been saying for months that Schneiderman and Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Maura T. Healy, who are both Democrats, have launched separate investigations of whether the multinational oil company allegedly suppressed climate change information to protect its financial position in violation of the respective states’ securities laws.

Staffs from the committee’s majority and the two AGs’ offices have exchanged several letters the past few months over whether the states have responded adequately to the committee’s subpoenas.

“The committee is concerned that the SEC, by wielding its enforcement authority against companies like Exxon for its collection of and reliance on what is perhaps in the SEC’s view inadequate climate data used to value its assets, advances a prescriptive climate change orthodoxy that may chill further climate change research throughout the public and private scientific [research and development] sector,” Smith said in his Sept. 29 letter.

Smith asked White and the SEC to provide information about the matter by Oct. 13.

At a Sept. 14 hearing, committee Democrats said Smith is misusing the committee’s oversight authority to interfere on ExxonMobil’s behalf with state law enforcement investigations.

“This hearing appears to be the culmination of a politically motivated ‘oversight’ agenda that has been applauded by oil, gas, and mining interests and broadly condemned by the public, the media, and the independent scientific community across the country and around the world,” Ranking Minority Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) said.

Contact Nick Snow at

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