Exxon Mobil can’t locate a year’s worth of emails from an alias account used by former CEO Rex Tillerson, now the secretary of state.
In Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday, the company’s lawyers said the emails disappeared due to computer issues. The correspondence was sent between 2008 and 2015 under the name “Wayne Tracker.” Tillerson’s middle name is Wayne and he used the account to communicate more easily with others in the company on “a broad range of business-related topics.”
The judge ordered Exxon to work with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to find the emails, which were subpoenaed as part of an investigation into whether the oil and gas giant purposefully misled the public and investors about the impact of climate change.
Schneiderman’s investigation began in November 2015, long before Tillerson was tapped to serve in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet. Last October, the New York Supreme Court ordered Exxon to produce documents related to its knowledge on climate change, dating back as long as 40 years ago.
Tillerson said in 2010 congressional testimony that Exxon knew human greenhouse gas emissions were impacting the climate, but it hadn’t been determined “to what extent and therefore what can you do about it.” Exxon accused Schneiderman of conducting the investigation because of a “political agenda.”
The investigation uncovered the alias email account earlier this month, the existence of which Exxon had not previously disclosed.
In court Wednesday, Judge Barry Ostrager demanded Exxon deliver sworn statements from staff associated with the Wayne Tracker account to help state investigators determine how they disappeared. He said the documents must be delivered by March 31.
That material, if found, would join some 416,000 documents already produced by Exxon in the investigation. The company’s lawyers said in a court filing that it has found nine months worth of lost emails, dated September 5, 2014 through September 15, 2015.
As secretary of state, Tillerson could be involved with abandoning the Paris climate agreement reached by the Obama administration in 2015. Trump has indicated he would like to see the U.S. withdraw from the international agreement aimed at reducing the global impact of climate change.