July 22, 2021

Climate Change Disclosure: State AGs on the Prowl

Most of us look at climate change disclosure obligations in the context of what the SEC now requires or what the agency will require in the future. This Winston & Strawn blog provides a reminder that other disclosure obligations may exist – and that alleged violations of them are being aggressively pursued by state AGs. The blog discusses litigation brought by Massachusetts against ExxonMobil alleging that it deceived consumers about the impact of climate change on its business. In addition, this excerpt lists some other pending actions by state AGs targeting climate-related disclosures:

Connecticut. Attorney General William Tong sued Exxon under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. This suit alleges: “ExxonMobil knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would have a significant impact on the environment, public health and our economy,” yet ExxonMobil did not disclose that to the public.

Delaware. Attorney General Kathleen Jennings filed a lawsuit against BP America Inc. and many other companies. The state asserts common law claims and a claim under Delaware’s Consumer Fraud Act. It alleges the defendants’ failures to disclose “their products’ known dangers—and simultaneous promotion of their unrestrained use—drove consumption, and thus greenhouse gas pollution, and thus the climate crisis.”

District of Columbia. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against BP plc, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and others. The suit similarly alleges these entities failed to disclose to consumers the role their products play in causing climate change.

Minnesota. Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a complaint against ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, Koch Industries, and Exxon and Koch subsidiaries. It similarly accuses the defendants of insufficient disclosure and acts associated with climate change.

The blog also says that while most of the actions so far have targeted the oil & gas industry, state AGs are on record as having said that most U.S. companies have not adequately considered or disclosed climate-related financial risk. The blog says that they are eyeing tech companies and those in the agriculture sector as possible litigation targets.

John Jenkins