Judge Says NY AG May Have to Turn Over Reports About Privately-Funded Lawyers

Excerpts From InsideSources by Jessica R. Towhey

A New York state Supreme Court judge ruled Wednesday that ExxonMobil may access quarterly reports on a special program in the New York Attorney General’s office funded by a private, outside interest that officials have fought to keep secret.

ExxonMobil is seeking the documents as part of its defense against a years’ long investigation and legal wranglings on the part of New York Attorney General Letitia James that alleges the company misled investors about how climate change regulations could impact its business.

Under state Supreme Court Judge Barry R. Ostrager’s ruling, the Attorney General’s office will turn over the reports to him, and he may decide to provide them to ExxonMobil after review. The reports presumably will show what Special Assistant Attorneys General Matthew Eisenson and Gavin McCabe, who are funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies through the NYU Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, have been working on since joining the office in 2017.

The Bloomberg-funded program places lawyers with five to 10 years of experience practicing environmental law into Attorneys’ General offices to “advance progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions,” according to an email obtained by a former fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who has been pursuing information on the program. There are at least seven states, including New York, that participate in the program. The Wall Street Journal called the program “ethically dubious” in a recent editorialand noted that documents being sought by legal observers and ExxonMobil “may reveal a trail of influence peddling.”

“Over the years, significant evidence has been disclosed in the public record showing that the New York Attorney General’s investigation of ExxonMobil–and now this lawsuit–were done in close coordination with outside groups that are financially and politically motivated,” said Phil Goldberg, special counsel for Manufacturers’ Accountability Project. “The goal of these private groups is to weaken the energy manufacturing industry, rather than seeking justice. Today’s hearing helped further expose this unfortunate reality to the public, and we continue to urge the Attorney General to adhere to basic principles of transparency that should be required of every public official.”

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