WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday proposed a new “corporate perjury” law that she would pursue if elected to the White House, inspired by Exxon Mobil Corp’s (XOM.N) past failure to share accurate climate change research with government regulators.
Warren said companies and executives could face criminal liability for false information they knowingly provide to U.S. agencies, leading to up to $250,000 in fines or jail time.
“No one would be liable for mistakes, for submitting research in good faith that turns out to be wrong, or for raising honest disagreements,” Warren wrote on the website Medium.
“But where companies engage in egregious and intentional efforts to mislead agencies in an effort to prevent our government from understanding and acting on facts, they will face criminal liability,” she added.
An Exxon spokesman said the company has supported climate research in conjunction with governments and academic institutions for nearly 40 years, with a “commitment to helping address this important societal challenge.”
“ExxonMobil has continuously and publicly researched and discussed the risks of climate change, carbon life-cycle analysis and emissions reductions,” Exxon’s Scott Silvestri said.
Warren, one of 17 Democrats vying to take on President Donald Trump in November 2020, has made anti-corruption efforts a centerpiece of her White House bid.
The Massachusetts senator has previously detailed how she would crack down on the so-called revolving door in Washington between the government and lobbying firms, mandate that elected officials release their tax returns and beef up government ethics rules.
In her plan released Tuesday, Warren also said she would ban agencies and courts from considering industry-funded research that has not been peer reviewed.
Warren noted in the early 2000s, Exxon paid nearly a third of the annual budget of the group Frontiers of Freedom, which promoted industry-friendly research minimizing climate change risks. Tobacco companies such as Phillip Morris (MO.N) and RJ Reynolds also provided the limited-government group with financial support.
“My plan would require industry actors who submit non-peer-reviewed research to agencies to disclose how that research was funded, whether those funders influenced the research’s findings, and the nature of any past or ongoing financial relationships,” Warren wrote.
Silvestri said Exxon’s research had resulted in nearly 150 public papers, including more than 50 in peer-reviewed publications.
Warren cited recent congressional testimony by a former Exxon consultant that the company knew of serious risks posed by climate change in the early 1980s. In 2009, a group of industry groups that included Exxon filed a regulatory comment with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that stated the effects of climate change were “almost non-existent and engulfed in an extremely high degree of uncertainty.”
Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s chief executive from 2006 to 2017, served as Trump’s secretary of state from February 2017 to March 2018.
Exxon is currently awaiting a verdict in a New York case that accuses the company of misleading investors about the impact of climate change-related regulations on its business. The company’s current and former executives, including Tillerson, have denied the allegations.
Reporting by Amanda Becker in Washington; Editing by Tom Brown