Thursday, November 5, 2015

Peak meddling

The New York attorney general is investigating whether ExxonMobile misled investors in its securities filings over the risks from climate change to the success of its investments.

I do not know Eric Schneiderman, but somehow I suspect that concern for the bank balances of ExxonMobile shareholders like me is not what's motivating him.

However, my first reaction was the same as with all discussions of the business risks sections of  annual 10K reports: Corporate managers do not like the idea of honestly revealing the risks they understand their businesses to be facing and so have taken to stuffing this section with every imaginable piece of obvious, stultifying garbage, so that only someone with lots of time on his hands will read through them. And despite an SEC rule that "climate risk" be considered, someone named Lawrence Taylor (not the retired linebacker) has determined that three out of four do not mention it.

Gee. Possibly they consider it less of a threat than, say, "our future business results also depend on our ability to manage successfully those factors that are at least in part within our control." (From Exxon's latest report.)

Here, by the way, is what Exxon has to say about climate risk:
Climate change and greenhouse gas restrictions. Due to concern over the risk of climate change, a number of countries have adopted, or are considering the adoption of, regulatory frameworks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These include adoption of cap and trade regimes, carbon taxes, restrictive permitting, increased efficiency standards, and incentives or mandates for renewable energy. These requirements could make our products more expensive, lengthen project implementation times, and reduce demand for hydrocarbons, as well as shift hydrocarbon demand toward relatively lower-carbon sources such as natural gas. Current and pending greenhouse gas regulations may also increase our compliance costs, such as for monitoring or sequestering emissions.
Funny, nothing about the next ice age, which is nearly certain although when is hard to say.

This looks like a waste of public resources. The fraud cops might find more productive targets at, oh, I don't know,  Mannatech (which is a much worse offender than Exxon in the obfuscation game; Exxon's 10-K is actually pretty good in the risk outlook section).

It takes a while to find, but Mannatech did warn that "scandals within the industries in which we operate" could adversely affect its business, and, lo and behold, unlike global warming or Obama's declaration of martial law, this one did happen.

 Only the risk turned out golden, so far.

It turns out that predicting the future is really hard.

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