Exxon’s Climate Cover-Up Should Be Investigated By DOJ, Tobacco Prosecutor Says
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
A former U.S. Department of Justice attorney who prosecuted and won the massive racketeering case against Big Tobacco thinks the agency should consider investigating Big Oil for similar claims: engaging in a cover-up to mislead the public about the risks of its product.
Sharon Eubanks, who now works for the firm Bordas & Bordas, told ThinkProgress that ExxonMobil and other members of the fossil fuel industry could be held liable for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) if it’s discovered that the companies worked together to suppress knowledge about the reality of human-caused climate change. She said that, considering recent revelations regarding ExxonMobil, the DOJ should consider launching an investigation into big fossil fuel companies.
Eubanks’ comments come a few days after two House Democrats urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch an investigation into ExxonMobil for hiding the results of its own climate change research. Recent investigations from Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times discovered that ExxonMobil conducted research in 1977 affirming that climate change was caused by carbon emissions from fossil fuels, yet continued to fund politicians and organizations that deny climate science and work to prevent regulations limiting carbon emissions.
Many have compared the situation to the actions of the tobacco industry. In 2006, a federal judge found that the big tobacco companies colluded to “deceive the public” about the health hazards of smoking, which amounted to a racketeering enterprise. The reason they did it, Eubanks said, was to avoid health regulations and save money.
“The cigarette companies actively denied the harm of cigarette smoking, and concealed the results of what their own research developed,” she said. “The motivation was money, and to avoid regulation.”