Above Photo: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photographer: Frank Robichon/AFP via Getty Images
– Former CEO Rex Tillerson used alias on secondary account
-Emails were sought by N.Y. attorney general in climate probe
Exxon Mobil Corp. says a technical glitch may have prevented it from automatically preserving emails in a secondary account used by former Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson to discuss climate change risks and other issues under the alias Wayne Tracker.
Tillerson, now U.S. Secretary of State, used the pseudonym account for sending the most sensitive messages to company board members, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is investigating whether the company misled investors for years about the possible impact of climate change on its business.
Schneiderman this week accused Exxon of failing to alert his office to the existence of the Wayne Tracker email account, even though its contents may have been critical in helping determine whether Exxon withheld negative climate-change predictions from investors.
Exxon said it’s probing whether its technology used for placing a “litigation hold” on Tillerson’s emails had any impact on its production of documents under a subpoena issued by Schneiderman more than a year ago.
“Despite the company’s intent to preserve the relevant emails in both of Mr. Tillerson’s accounts, due to the manner in which email accounts had been configured years earlier and how they interact with the system, these technological processes did not automatically extend to the secondary email account,” Exxon said in a filing Friday in New York state court in Manhattan.
Exxon also rejected Schneiderman’s claim that the Wayne Tracker account was inappropriate, saying it was searched in early 2016 and again this year for emails that were relevant to the attorney general’s investigation.
“Notwithstanding insinuations to the contrary, Mr. Tillerson’s use of the Wayne Tracker account was entirely proper,” Exxon said in the filing. “It allowed a limited group of senior executives to send time-sensitive messages to Mr. Tillerson that received priority over the normal daily traffic that crossed the desk of a busy CEO.”
Tillerson, whose middle name is Wayne, employed the account from at least 2008 through 2015, according to Schneiderman.
“More than 16 months after receiving our subpoena, Exxon is just now admitting it may not have preserved or produced the emails of its former CEO, who used an alias email account,” Amy Spitalnick, Schneiderman’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We look forward to addressing these, and the other issues our letter raised, in court.”
The existence of the secondary email account was discovered by Schneiderman’s team while reviewing other Exxon documents. New York claims the energy giant has failed to turn over thousands of relevant files, particularly those from the company’s management committee.
Irving, Texas-based Exxon said in Friday’s letter the impact of the technical glitch isn’t expected to be significant, and that any relevant emails that may have been lost would have been discoverable in other accounts.
Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers declined to comment when reached by phone.