In an important decision concerning Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s investigation of Exxon Mobil for potential state law violations, including under the Martin Act, today the Hon. Barry R. Ostrager ordered Exxon Mobil (“Exxon”) and its outside auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (“PwC”), to comply with a subpoena issued by the Attorney General’s office in August 2016. The subpoena seeks documents related to PWC’s work for Exxon.
On October 14th 2016, the Attorney General moved to compel production by PwC after Exxon asserted that it would not permit PwC to provide certain documents to the Attorney General’s Office. Exxon based its refusal to comply on a Texas statute that Exxon asserted creates an “accountant-client privilege.”
After noting that “[a]ll parties agree that this Court is the proper forum” to hear challenges to the AG’s subpoena, the New York Court ruled that Exxon’s interpretation of the Texas statute is “flawed,” and stated that the Texas statute in no way precludes PwC from producing the documents requested by the Attorney General’s office. The Court also stated that New York law, rather than Texas law, governed the dispute. The Court ordered PWC and Exxon to comply with the subpoena expeditiously.
“We are pleased with the Court’s order and look forward to moving full-steam ahead with our fraud investigation of Exxon,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “Exxon had no legal basis to interfere with PwC’s production, and I hope that today’s order serves as a wake up call to Exxon that the best thing they can do is cooperate with, rather than resist, our investigation.”
The Court’s Order is available here.