State Climate Suits Really, Really, Belong in State Court When They Allege Misleading Statements To Investors

On Thursday, there was yet another opinion addressing whether state and local climate suits belong in state or federal court.  This time, Judge William Young issued an opinion explaining his March bench decision to remand Massachusetts’ case against ExxonMobil to state court. 

The Massachusetts case for remand was easier than in the cases seeking a remedy for climate change.  The Massachusetts case does not make nuisance claims or seek a substantive remedy for the impacts of climate change.  It is limited to claims that ExxonMobil deceived investors in Massachusetts by knowingly misrepresenting the science of climate change and the impacts of that science on ExxonMobil’s share price.  As Judge Young noted:

the Commonwealth wants “to hold ExxonMobil accountable for misleading the state’s investors and consumers.” No one doubts that this task falls within the core of a state’s responsibility. States routinely enforce consumer protection and securities laws alongside the federal government.

Contrary to ExxonMobil’s caricature of the complaint, the Commonwealth’s allegations do not require any forays into foreign relations or national energy policy. It alleges only corporate fraud.

Whatever one may think of the merits of the Commonwealth’s claims, or even whether the Commonwealth’s suit was motivated by broader issues related to climate change, Judge Young got this one right.  It’s a consumer fraud case brought under state law and is not subject to removal to federal court based on the allegations in the complaint.

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