Law360 Quotes Paul Gutermann, Ken Markowitz on Exxon’s Climate Change Suits

For its article “Climate Claims No Slam Dunk For Oil Co. Investors,” Law360 quoted Akin Gump environment and natural resources partner Paul Gutermann and senior clean energy and environment consultant Kenneth Markowitz on a proposed class action against Exxon Mobil Corp. for concealing knowledge of climate change from shareholders, which, the publication notes, could lead to similar suits against other fossil fuel producers.

The article reports recent investigations of Exxon launched by New York and Massachusetts and notes that investor suits against these companies could ride on what is produced in the government cases.

In this regard, Gutermann said, “If something happens as to those government cases that they go away, usually these investor cases go away as well.”

Regarding the task that investor plaintiffs would have of showing that fossil fuel company officials were aware of the impact of climate change on assets and acted contrarily, he said, “It's going to be a major task, I would think, to investigate and ultimately prove precisely the knowledge that Exxon or any emitter of greenhouse gases knew with a reasonable amount of probability at a certain time versus what disclosures were made. Companies may also argue that similarly situated companies made similar disclosures in similar time periods.”

Markowitz noted, however, that fossil fuel companies may be inadvertently laying the groundwork for future litigation: “As more and more companies have been reporting emissions data, there are more facts for groups or lawyers to use to put cases together. There's more information out there, potentially opening up exposure to other companies about this issue.”