California Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested a Department of Justice investigation into ExxonMobil on Wednesday, writing that the company’s behavior “is similar to cigarette companies that repeatedly denied harm from tobacco and spread uncertainty and misleading information to the public.” There have always been pronounced parallels between the tobacco and oil industry—both working to undermine regulatory action that could hamper profit—but a federal investigation may mean they share the same fate, as well.
In 1999, the DOJ investigated and eventually sued big tobacco for spreading misleading evidence about the connection between cigarettes and cancer. The companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and faced repercussions for lying to the public about science. Now, Congressmen Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier of California say it could be Exxon’s turn.
“We ask that the DOJ similarly investigate ExxonMobil for organizing a sustained deception campaign disputing climate science and failing to disclose truthful information to investors and the public,” they wrote, according to a letter provided to the New Republic. “We request the DOJ investigate whether ExxonMobil violated RICO, consumer protection, truth in advertising, public health, shareholder protection, or other laws.