New York’s fraud investigation into whether ExxonMobil misled shareholders about the risks of climate change hit a snag on Wednesday, as the company revealed it cannot locate a year’s worth of emails. The emails in question belonged to “Wayne Tracker,” the alias used by former Exxon CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to privately communicate from 2008 to 2015 with Exxon officials on the effects of climate change, so they’re clearly relevant to the investigation.
A year of emails, especially ones with such an infamous alias, mysteriously disappearing may come across as suspicious, but Exxon has an explanation for how it happened. In a letter to the court, as obtained by BuzzFeed, the oil company stated that because of the search filters used, they were skipped over and deleted:
“The issue that affected the Wayne Tracker account was an isolated occurrence that resulted from the standard configurations of ExxonMobil’s Microsoft Exchange email system, the Microsoft “Active Directory” service2 and ExxonMobil’s mechanism for suspending the automatic deletion of email (known as a “file sweep”).
The Wayne Tracker account was exempted from the suspension of the ordinary course “file sweep” because it was classified as a non-personal account. As a result of this unique issue, emails that might otherwise have been in the Wayne Tracker account between September 5, 2014, and September 16, 2015 were not available for review when the fourth search described above was conducted.”
Additionally, attorneys for Exxon maintained in court on Wednesday the Tracker account was the only secondary one used by an executive of the company. But that excuse doesn’t seem to be enough for Judge Barry Ostrager, who ordered the company to provide sworn affidavits from employees who were in charge of making sure nothing happened to the Tracker emails. And he is giving them until March 31 to deliver any and all relevant documents to the investigation.