by Kenneth Artz
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) is investigating ExxonMobil over allegations the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change and to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business.
The state’s 1921 Martin Act gives New York’s attorney general (AG) sweeping power to subpoena any document from anyone doing business in the state. The law grants the authority to New York’s AG to keep investigations secret and to file civil or criminal charges, and people called in for questioning during Martin Act investigations do not have the right to legal counsel or a right against self-incrimination according to LegalAffairs and other legal sources…
David W. Schnare, a 33-year veteran of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and current general counsel of the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, says the Martin Act gives New York’s attorney general almost unlimited power.
“[The Martin Act] was originally used against organized-crime figures, but now, politically active AGs use it to identify odd bits of conversations or correspondence from a company to use for political purposes,” Schnare said. “They use it to mirror the federal process in SEC cases, and in this case it is being used to continue the environmentalists’ war on hydrocarbons.
“The AG gets this authority to look into what Exxon did,” Schnare said. “He did the same thing to Peabody coal, and because the state has nearly unlimited resources to hire attorneys, the companies tend to settle.”