New York AG investigating Exxon's accounting practices: source

September 16, 2016 6:44 AM EDT

The logo of Exxon Mobil Corporation is shown on a monitor above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson


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(Reuters) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating Exxon Mobil Corp's (NYSE: XOM) accounting practices and why the oil major hasn't written down the value of its assets in the wake of a slump in oil prices, a person familiar with the matter said.

A more than 60 percent drop in oil prices has forced many integrated oil producers around the world to write down the value of their assets. Exxon is the only major producer holding out so far.

The focus of Schneiderman's probe of Exxon has shifted over the past year.

After initially looking at whether the company misled investors about the risks of climate change, Schneiderman told the New York Times in August he was looking at the potential impact on the valuation of Exxon's assets from a global crack down on carbon pollution.

"Our results are in accordance with the accounting and reporting standards of the SEC and FASB," an Exxon spokesman told Reuters, adding that the company's financial results are not affected by any material impairments.

The company said in a filing in February that an assessment of its major risky assets showed that future undiscounted cash flows associated with such assets "substantially exceed" their carrying value.

"I really think nothing will come of it. The SEC, the auditors have had no issue with how Exxon Mobil and or Chevron report reserves," Edward Jones analyst Brian Youngberg said.

"Share prices are moving down just with oil and I think investors are not viewing this as having any potential impact."

The news first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday indicates the NY AG is now looking at price assumptions Exxon uses to book its reserves. (http://on.wsj.com/2cKDtWe)

The long-term inflation-adjusted price of oil since 1946 is around $40 a barrel. Exxon has repeatedly said it uses very low price assumptions when booking reserves.

A group of integrated oil companies had written down assets worth $103 billion since the start of 2014, Jefferies analysts wrote in a note earlier this month.

The brokerage also said it expected more asset impairments in the industry.

New York Attorney General's spokesman, Eric Soufer, said he does not have a comment on the WSJ report.

Exxon's shares were down 0.5 percent at $84.74 in early trading.

Up to Thursday's close, shares of the company had fallen about 17 percent since mid 2014, compared with a 32 percent decline in the broader S&P Energy index <.SPNY> during the same period.

(Reporting by Terry Wade in Houston and Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)



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