May 30, 2018 / 5:37 PM / 6 months ago

Exxon CEO urges New York prosecutor to rethink climate change probe

DALLAS (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp’s chief executive said on Wednesday he hopes the new attorney general in New York “comes to a different conclusion” than predecessor Eric Schneiderman on a climate change probe into the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer.

FILE PHOTO: Darren Woods, Chairman & CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation exits after a news conference at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Schneiderman, who resigned earlier this month here after allegations of physical abuse by four women that he denied, had alleged Exxon withheld information about its internal climate change discussions and misled the public about what it knew. Exxon has long denied the charges here

The investigation has spread to other states, including Massachusetts, and has put Exxon squarely in the middle of the ongoing debate about fossil fuels and climate change.

CEO Darren Woods, who spoke at Exxon’s annual shareholder meeting in Dallas, said he was “committed to being part of the solution on climate change.”

Woods added he had not reached out to Barbara Underwood, who was appointed to replace Schneiderman. He said he was not sure if Exxon attorneys have talked to Underwood or her office.

“I’m real confident on where we stand. I hope whoever comes in steps back and takes an objective look ... and comes to a different conclusion,” Woods said.

Underwood, a Democrat appointed by the New York State Legislature, has said she would not run for election to a full term this November. At least six candidates of various political backgrounds have announced their candidacies.

“Let’s see what that election brings,” Woods said.

Underwood’s office said on Wednesday that the Exxon climate probe was ongoing.

“Our office’s work has continued without interruption, and that certainly includes the Exxon investigation,” said Amy Spitalnick, spokeswoman for the New York attorney general.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees state pension funds that hold about 11.5 million Exxon shares, has also long criticized the company’s response to climate change and voted against a slate of 10 board nominees at the company’s annual meeting.

"The fund cannot support board directors who refuse to acknowledge substantial risks to Exxon's bottom line and fail to help it transition to a lower carbon future," DiNapoli said in a statement. All 10 board nominees were approved here by Exxon shareholders.

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Richard Chang

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