Exxon Mobil admitted in Manhattan Supreme Court Wednesday that it lost a year's worth of emails from the alias account used by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he was the company's CEO.
Tillerson — whose middle name is Wayne and went by the alias "Wayne Tracker" in the sensitive emails to company board members — is among those being investigated by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for allegedly deceiving investors about Exxon's XOM, -0.09% scientific research on climate-change impact.
Exxon lawyers blamed the email loss on computer issues, but state senior enforcement counsel John Oleske called Exxon's revelation a "bombshell."
Tillerson sent the emails between 2008 and 2015. Although Exxon lawyers admit initially being unable to recover the "Wayne Tracker" emails from September 5, 2014 to September 16, 2015, they claimed in a court filing that nine-months-worth of the lost emails have subsequently been recovered.
Judge Barry Ostrager ordered Exxon to deliver sworn statements and records from its staffers responsible for monitoring the "Wayne Tracker" emails, so state investigators could determine how they were lost.
He suggested both sides try to work out their differences about the missing emails, but also ordered the energy giant to comply by March 31 with Schneiderman's 16-month old subpoena for records.
Exxon has already handed over 416,000 documents totaling more than 2 million pages to the attorney general's office.
Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said in a statement that the company's ability to produce records won't be "significantly impacted" by Tillerson's missing emails and that many of them were recovered from other employee accounts.
The Wayne Tracker email account was uncovered by the attorney general's team while scrutinizing other Exxon records.