Before the Verdict is In, We Can Already Say the “Exxon Knew” Campaign Failed

As we await a verdict in the New York attorney general’s (NYAG) “historic” trial against ExxonMobil due this week, we already know one thing for sure: “Exxon Knew” is dead.

The NYAG trial was supposed to be the “Exxon Knew” campaign’s crowning achievement. An activist dream, this trial was the culmination of years of planning, a series of coordinated and paid-for media hit pieces, months of plotting with the NYAG’s office, a subsequent four year investigation, and the collection and review of over 4 million pages of company documents.

The result? A resounding failure.

The Birth of ‘Exxon Knew’

The “Exxon Knew” campaign was first conceived during a 2012 workshop in La Jolla, Calif., sponsored by wealthy, anti-fossil fuel foundations, where activists strategized about how to replicate the success of the lawsuits against “Big Tobacco” by “establishing accountability for climate change damages.”

Attendees discussed opportunities to obtain internal documents through investigations by state attorneys general or through litigation – a playbook they have followed to the letter in the intervening years. One lawyer noted that, “even if your ultimate goal might be to shut down a company, you still might be wise to start out by asking for compensation for injured parties.” (emphasis added)

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