The Department of Justice has referred a request made by two congressman to investigate ExxonMobil to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to a letter obtained by InsideClimate News, the DOJ has passed the request on to the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division so that the FBI can determine “whether an investigation is warranted.”
No official investigation has been ordered yet and the FBI is not obligated to begin a probe.
The referral comes four and half months after California representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier sent a letter to the DOJ asking the agency to investigate Exxon for allegedly failing to disclose information about climate change.
Citing investigations published by InsideClimate News and the L.A. Times, the congressmen asked the DOJ to determine if Exxon violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly known as RICO, and other laws.
The investigations cited in the congressmen’s letter allege that Exxon utilized research about climate change when making operational and planning decisions while also publicly down playing the science on global warming.
Exxon has denied any wrongdoing, calling the reports “inaccurate and deliberately misleading.”
“These activists took those statements out of context and ignored other readily available statements demonstrating that our researchers recognized the developing nature of climate science at the time which, in fact, mirrored global understanding,” Exxon vice president of public and government affairs Ken Cohen said in October.
DeSaulnier told InsideClimate News he believes the DOJ letter suggests that the FBI will begin a probe into the matter.
“I would very much like the attorney general to get involved and I think it’s inevitable that will happen because of the growing recognition of how the public was misled,” DeSaulnier said.
Neither the FBI nor ExxonMobil have commented on the DOJ’s letter.
In November, Exxon confirmed that it had received a subpoena from the New York Attorney General’s Office for “documents relating to climate change.”
The company added that it has included information about the business risk of climate change for many years in its 10-K, Corporate Citizenship Report and in other reports to shareholders.
A source told the NY Times that month that the New York attorney general’s investigation began about a year ago and may include information dating back to the 1970s.