By Karen Savage
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey pointedly rebuked Exxon’s claim that her climate fraud suit against the company qualifies as a SLAPP suit intended to silence its “views” on climate change. The AG’s office is responding to the company’s attempt to shield itself from her lawsuit using a statute designed to protect citizens who protest.
Massachusetts state law prohibits SLAPP lawsuits—which are designed to harass and intimidate those exercising their First Amendment rights, most often filed by corporations or other powerful entities in an attempt to silence activists, consumers, community advocates and journalists. The law is meant to protect those people, who often lack the resources to defend themselves against wealthy corporations.
“ExxonMobil, one of the world’s most powerful companies, now invokes a statute intended to shield people of modest means from meritless suits by large private interests that seek to punish those people for exercising their right to petition the government,” the AG’s office wrote in a brief made public Tuesday. “ExxonMobil is not a person of modest means and the Commonwealth is not a large private interest.”
After a three-year investigation, the AG filed suit in Massachusetts state court in 2019, alleging Exxon has known for decades that its products drive climate change, but misled consumers and investors to bolster its own profits. Exxon has tried repeatedly to shake Healey’s investigation and lawsuit. Thus far, all have failed.
Healey claims Exxon used deceptive advertising, failed to disclose climate-related risks to its investors and failed to disclose how catastrophic climate impacts from continued fossil fuel burning could threaten the global economy. The AG amended the suit earlier this year, accusing the oil giant of continuing to deceive shareholders about future demand for its products.
“Nothing in the text of the anti-SLAPP statute demonstrates that it extends to actions by the attorney general … to protect consumers and investors from unfair and deceptive acts and practices and advance the public interest,” the AG’s office told the court, adding that to do so would hamper law enforcement.[Read more…]