ExxonMobil world headquarters in Irving, Texas (Katherine Welles/Shutterstock.com)
New York’s highest court declined Tuesday to review a lower court’s denial of PriceWaterhouseCooper’s accountant-client privilege claims to quash document production requests from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.
The refusal by the state Court of Appeals to take up the international accounting firm’s argument is being heralded by Schneiderman as a victory in his office’s ongoing investigation into ExxonMobil.
Schneiderman is investigating whether the energy company committed securities violations by withholding internal information about the impact of climate change on its business. As ExxonMobil’s independent auditor, PwC was subpoenaed by Schneiderman for documents relevant to the investigation.
“Today’s Court of Appeals order affirms that Exxon and its outside auditor have an obligation to produce all the documents that our office rightfully subpoenaed,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “As we’ve said from the start, Exxon had no legal basis to interfere with PwC’s production. Our fraud investigation continues to move full speed ahead, despite Exxon’s continued strategy of delay.”
PwC had urged Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager to quash Schneiderman’s request for documentation related to the office’s climate change-based fraud investigation into ExxonMobil. Ostrager denied the pre-eminence claim, based on a Texas accountant-client privilege law, and the Appellate Division, First Department, upheld the decision in May.
The Court of Appeals also denied as moot a motion by ExxonMobil for a stay pending appeal.
Spokespeople for ExxonMobil and PwC could not be reached for comment.