GOP lawmaker probes SEC’s investigation against Exxon

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WASHINGTON — The chairman of a House committee sent a letter Thursday to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requesting information related to its probe of Exxon Mobil. The letter argues that the Exxon investigation could be a political witch-hunt against the oil company.

“It appears from press accounts that the SEC’s investigative actions, which date back to at least August of this year, are couched in concerns related to the science of climate change,” Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith’s letter reads. The letter was addressed to SEC
Chair Mary Jo White.

“More disturbingly, media coverage has directly linked the Commission’s ‘far-reaching’ inquiry to New York Attorney General (AG) Eric Schneiderman’s ongoing investigation into Exxon under state securities fraud law,” he added.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology chairman is currently engaged in his own investigation of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Exxon probe to assess how badly the attorney general’s crusade will affect oil development.

Smith has been trying to force Democratic attorneys general to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents regarding their investigation into whether Exxon knowingly misled its investors and the public.

The Texas Republican publicly raised concerns about the SEC’s probes in the past, telling reporters Sept. 24 that they weren’t a coincidence, and that such probes create “the appearance of a little bit of collusion.” He called the New York attorney general’s probe an “abuse of power,” and a “witch-hunt,” and urged the SEC not to assume “the mantle of the New York AG’s fruitless investigation.”

The SEC probe seeks to determine how the oil company estimates its future worth as climate regulations continue apace. The SEC received a treasure trove of documents in connection to a similar probe into related issues generated in 2015 by Schneiderman.

Ultimately, the agency aims to investigate the company’s practice of not writing down the value of its oil reserves, especially as oil prices continue to crater. Exxon is managing to avoid taking write-downs since oil prices plunged to nearly $30 per barrel.

The investigation is partially the result of a September investigation of Exxon conducted by InsideClimate News. The investigation found that Exxon is allegedly playing fast and loose with information concerning global warming.