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SEC drops probe over Exxon accounting practices

Federal authorities are no longer investigating Exxon Mobil's accounting practices, but attorney generals in New York and Massachusetts will still probe the company. File Photo by Enrique Contla/EPA-EFE

By Sommer Brokaw, UPI

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has dropped a two-year probe into whether Exxon Mobil's accounting practices were transparent about climate change risk.

A letter to the SEC Thursday obtained by The Wall Street Journal informed Exxon that the probe was closed and the company would not be penalized.

Exxon confirmed in a statement that the probe digging through more than 4 million pages of records starting January 2016 was over. "After a thorough investigation, including a review of these documents, the SEC issued its closure letter," company spokesman Scott Silvestri said in the statement.

[post_ads]The probe began under former chairman Mary Jo White, who was picked by former President Barack Obama, and ended under SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, appointed by President Donald Trump.

Still, attorneys general in Massachusetts and New Work are continuing investigations into how Exxon's past filings accounted for the mpact of climate change and environmental regulations.

The New York attorney general in particular alleges Exxon may have misled investors about the impact of climate change by using internal estimates that were different from its public statements.

Exxon has denied those charges.

"Given the time horizon over which climate change could have an impact, it's challenging to prove that any risk or uncertainty is material to a company in the present day," Keith Higgins, a former SEC director and now chairman of the securities and governance practice at Ropes and Gray, told the Journal.

Exxon has faced pressure from environmental activists to trim its greenhouse gas emissions as a preventative measure against rising sea levels that global warming could cause or exacerbate.

The company announced plans in May to cut its methane emissions 15 percent by 2020.

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US News: SEC drops probe over Exxon accounting practices
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