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Warren Pledges Corporate Perjury Law to Fight Misinformation

Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou

(Bloomberg) -- Elizabeth Warren unveiled a new policy proposal Tuesday to prosecute large corporations for perjury if they mislead the public and government regulators.

The Democratic presidential candidate’s proposal takes aim at companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp., which she said had spent millions of dollars to spread misinformation about the effects of fossil fuels on climate change.

If Warren’s idea becomes law, companies would be subject to as much as $250,000 in fines, and executives could face jail time if regulators determined they knowingly submitted false or misleading information to regulatory agencies. Her latest policy roll-out is part of a larger anti-corruption plan that she has made a centerpiece of her campaign.

“If bad actors like Exxon break the rules and deliberately lie to government agencies, my plan will treat them the same way the law treats someone who lies in court – by subjecting them to potential prosecution for perjury,” Warren wrote in a Medium post on Tuesday.

Exxon’s scientists work “in an open and transparent way,” the oil producer said in a statement. The Irving, Texas-based company “has supported climate science in partnership with government and academic institutions for nearly 40 years,” it said, citing dozens of peer-reviewed publications and work with Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the U.S. government and the United Nations.

A New York judge is currently presiding over a case in which the state’s attorney general’s office is accusing Exxon of making misleading statements about the financial effects of climate change policies. Last week, the state dropped two claims that formed part of the original case.

Warren would also ban federal agencies and courts from considering research that has been financed by a specific industry and has not been peer-reviewed. Corporations would be required to disclose how their research was funded and make clear any financial relationships between the researchers and their corporate backers before being considered by federal agencies. Any conflicts of interest would exclude that research from the rulemaking process, she said.

She also assailed tobacco companies for backing what she called misleading information on the health risks of smoking.

Warren’s proposal comes a few weeks after she stepped up her criticism of major U.S. corporations, including Facebook Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., BP Plc and Walmart Inc. and singled out senior-level government officials who accepted jobs with them after working for the federal government.

The Massachusetts senator has vowed to increase oversight of lobbying and to impose hiring restrictions for people who have worked in top government posts.

(Updates with Exxon comment in fifth paragraph.)

--With assistance from Kevin Crowley.

To contact the reporter on this story: Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou in Washington at megkolfopoul@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Carlos Caminada, Joe Carroll

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