Ohio's public employee and state teachers retirement systems are seeking lead plaintiff status in a class-action lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp., Irving, Texas. The suit alleges that Exxon "misled investors by failing to properly account for the value of its oil reserves" before it merged with Mobil in 1999, according to a statement from Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro. The two Columbus, Ohio-based plans estimate their alleged combined damages were between $40 million and $120 million; Mr. Petro estimated billions of dollars of total damages for all shareholders. "Obtaining lead plaintiff status will allow Ohio to have a strong say in the direction this litigation takes," Mr. Petro said in the statement. The status request was made in U.S. District Court in Camden, N.J., before Judge Freda L. Wolfson.
The $58.7 billion Ohio Public Employees Retirement System owns 1.298 million shares of Exxon Mobil; the $52.9 billion Ohio State Teachers Retirement System owns 1.148 million shares, according to Kim Norris, spokesman for Mr. Petro. "Exxon Mobil takes exception to any accusation that we issued false and misleading financial statements and that the merger was not in the best interest of shareholders," an Exxon Mobil spokeswoman said.