Oil giant Exxon Mobil has come under investigation for allegedly misleading the public on the risks of climate change. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent a subpoena to the Dallas-based company after reviewing its shareholder disclosures for years. An official familiar with the matter told the Associated Press that the attorney general was examining statements from Exxon to determine if the company lied to investors about the causes and impacts of climate change.

Exxon Mobil

Did Exxon undermine the findings publicly?

At the heart of the issue are reports that Exxon had confirmed that burning the oil, gas and coal would lead to catastrophic climate change, only to deny it and undermine these findings publicly. The New York state is investigation whether the company had prepared its investors on how the response to climate change could hurt its business.

The New York attorney general sought Exxon’s emails, financial records, and other documents related to its climate research. Scientists say that if the world continues to burn fossil fuels, carbon emissions could significantly heat the planet, causing irreversible damage. Since last year, projects by the non-profit InsideClimate News, Columbia University, and the Union for Concerned Scientists have detailed a timeline for what and when Exxon knew about the potential impact of climate change.

Exxon claims to have informed investors about business risks

Documents revealed that Exxon scientists recognized in 1977 the potential threat to its existence from global warming. Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri confirmed that the company had received subpoena, but he rejected allegations that the company suppressed research. Silvestri said Exxon had been providing shareholders information about the risks of climate change on its business for years.

Scott Silvestri cited the energy giant’s 40-year long climate research that was conducted publicly in collaboration with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, academics, and the Department of Energy. Exxon Mobil VP Ken Cohen told reporters Thursday that since the beginning of the last decade, it has informed investors through regulatory filings and other reports about the business risks associated with climate change.