New York (AFP)

Did ExxonMobil mislead investors and deliberately underestimate the financial risks associated with climate change? A New York judge has just given the green light to an unprecedented lawsuit on this issue.

The lawsuit was filed in October 2018 by the New York State Attorney General, on behalf of millions of US investors who were hurt by the company's alleged fraud, listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Judge Barry Ostrager of the New York State Supreme Court dismissed final motions Wednesday night and set the trial open for next Tuesday.

The company is accused of having assured investors that it had incorporated in its decisions the foreseeable increase in the cost of greenhouse gas emissions, whereas this was not the case, according to the prosecutor's office. .

Exxon allegedly applied either deliberately underestimated costs or no costs at all, thereby avoiding the inclusion of "billions of dollars" in additional costs.

The energy giant has also deceived investors by ensuring that its activities would be little affected if the authorities decide to drastically reduce the production and consumption of gas and oil to limit global warming to less than 2 ° Celsius, as according to the Paris Climate Agreement.

Although not directly attacked, the complaint specifically names the company's former CEO, Rex Tillerson, secretary of state for the Trump government until March 2018, who "knew for years that the company's claims about these costs were misleading. "

New York State does not cite any claim for damages, but demands that ExxonMobil be required to release corrected information to investors and reimburse the amounts unduly earned through this fraud.

ExxonMobil, whose title did not suffer on Thursday from the announcement of the lawsuit, described the prosecution's accusations as "false" and "misleading" and said it was confident of being exonerated by the courts.

"It is known that the prosecutor's investigation and the subsequent civil complaint were politically motivated and resulted from a concerted effort by anti-fossil fuel organizations and lawyers involved in other cases attacking the state. oil industry, the company said Thursday in a statement.

Last August, the SEC, the US Stock Exchange policeman, dismissed a more than two-year investigation into ExxonMobil's accounting practices and the financial impact of public policies against global warming on its results.

© 2019 AFP