Memo Shows Secret Coordination Effort Against ExxonMobil by Climate Activists, Rockefeller Fund

Several states have launched investigations into the company

April 14, 2016

A small coalition of prominent climate change activists and political operatives huddled on Jan. 8 for a closed-door meeting at the Rockefeller Family Fund in Manhattan. Their agenda: taking down oil giant ExxonMobil through a coordinated campaign of legal action, divestment efforts, and political pressure.

The meeting—which included top officials at GreenPeace, the Working Families Party, and the Rockefeller Family Fund—took place as climate change groups have pushed for a federal criminal probe of ExxonMobil’s environmental impact, similar to the 1990s racketeering case against Big Tobacco.

A copy of the meeting’s agenda, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, provides a rare glimpse inside the anti-ExxonMobil crusade, which has already spurred investigations into the oil giant by Democratic attorneys general in several states.

According to the memo, the coalition’s goals are to "delegitimize [ExxonMobil] as a political actor," "force officials to disassociate themselves from Exxon," and "drive divestment from Exxon." The memo also proposed "creating scandal" by using lawsuits and state prosecutors to obtain internal documents from ExxonMobil through judicial discovery.

The secret meeting was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, but the group’s agenda was not posted in full until now.

The agenda was drafted by Kenny Bruno, an activist with the New Venture Fund. Bruno emailed the memo to a small group of around a dozen attendees, including Naomi Ages at GreenPeace; Dan Cantor, executive director of the New York Working Families Party; Jamie Henn, co-founder at; and Rob Weissman, president at Public Citizen.

According to the agenda, the meeting would be opened by Lee Wasserman, director of the Rockefeller Family Fund. The organization funds many environmental groups and hosted the meeting at its Manhattan office.

"If you are receiving this message then we believe you are attending the meeting this coming Friday Jan 8 regarding Exxon," wrote Bruno. "The meeting will take place at: Rockefeller Family Fund."

The email included a "DRAFT Agenda" for "Exxon: Revelations & Opportunities."

Under a section headlined "goals," the agenda listed: "To establish in the public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution"; "To delegitimize them as a political actor; and "To drive Exxon & climate into center of 2016 election."

The agenda also outlined "the main avenues for legal actions & related campaigns," including state attorneys general, the Department of Justice, international litigation, and tort lawsuits.

"Which of these has the best prospects for successful action? For getting discovery? For creating scandal?" said the memo.

The Rockefeller Family Fund did not immediately return request for comment.

California announced an investigation into ExxonMobil’s statements on climate change in January, shortly after the meeting took place.

Several other states attorneys general, including New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, have also launched investigations into whether ExxonMobil broke the law by allegedly covering up internal conclusions on climate change and misleading investors.

ExxonMobil filed court papers on Wednesday challenging another investigation by the U.S. Virgin Island’s attorney general’s office, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In the filing, the oil company denounced the "chilling effect of this inquiry, which discriminates based on viewpoint to target one side of an ongoing policy debate" and "strikes at protected speech at the core of the First Amendment."

Published under: Climate Change