Exxon Sues Massachusetts AG to Block Civil Investigative Demand

Fuel StationOn June 15, 2016, Exxon sued Massachusetts AG Maura Healey in federal court in Texas, seeking to bar the enforcement of AG Healey’s April 19, 2016 civil investigative demand, issued pursuant to M.G.L. c. 93A, the Commonwealth’s unfair and deceptive practice statute.  Under c. 93A, § 6, the AG may issue investigative demands “whenever [s]he believes a person has engaged in or is engaging in any method, act or practice” prohibited by c. 93A.  The April CID states that Exxon’s “marketing and/or sale of energy and other fossil fuel derived products to consumers in the Commonwealth” and “marketing and/or sale of securities” to Massachusetts investors are both under investigation.

The complaint argues that Exxon cannot have committed any c. 93A violations within the statute’s four-year limitations period. See M.G.L. c. 260, § 5A. Additionally, Exxon asserts that the CID is “pretextual” and “political,” and that AG Healey’s true purpose is to “silence, intimidate and deter” Exxon in the ongoing climate change debate, violating Exxon’s constitutional rights.

Though directed to AG Healey, the complaint also attacks NY AG Eric Schneiderman and Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker at length for what Exxon alleges is an impermissible alliance between state AGs and climate change activists.

Exxon has paired the Texas federal court suit with a state court action in Massachusetts, seeking to set aside the CID.  The state court complaint largely mirrors the federal one, asserting that the CID is “a pretextual use of law enforcement power to deter ExxonMobil from participating in ongoing public deliberations about climate change.”

AG Healey’s office in a statement fired back that Exxon’s complaints constituted “an unprecedented effort to limit the ability of state attorneys general to investigate fraud and unfair business practices.”

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