U.S. judge rules securities suit against Exxon, executives can proceed

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A federal judge rejected Exxon Mobil Corp’s motion to dismiss a securities suit alleging the company and top executives misled investors about the impact of climate change on its business.

FILE PHOTO: A sign is seen in front of the Exxonmobil Baton Rouge Refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 6, 2015. REUTERS/Lee Celano/File Photo

U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade in Dallas ruled on Tuesday the plaintiffs could go ahead with their suit against Exxon, former Chief Executive Rex Tillerson and several financial executives.

The civil suit alleges Exxon and the executives failed to properly account for climate impact to its business and made public statements and financial disclosures that caused its share price to fall.

The decision to proceed “is an important first step in holding one of the world’s most powerful corporations accountable,” said Darren Robbins, an attorney for the plaintiffs, which include the Greater Pennsylvania Carpenters Pension Fund.

Exxon had sought to dismiss the suit, arguing plaintiffs failed to state a claim for the civil action.

“We continue to believe the complaint is meritless and will vigorously defend ourselves from these baseless claims,” said Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri.

The case is one of several, including shareholder and employee lawsuits, centered on whether Exxon has for decades lied about climate change, including its impact on energy prices and the environment and its ability to develop reserves, and taken public positions inconsistent with what it knew.

New York and Massachusetts attorneys general are investigating whether the company misled the public and investors on its statements on climate change, releasing documents showing that Tillerson while at the company had used an email account under a different name to discuss climate-related issues.

Exxon has called those investigations politically motivated.

The case is Pedro Ramirez Jr v. Exxon Mobil et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, No. 16-03111.

Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Cynthia Osterman