A long-buried alter ego has come back to haunt our new secretary of state
While he served as CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson didn’t say or write a whole lot about climate change. But his secret email alias, Wayne Tracker, sure did.
Earlier this week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman revealed that Tillerson used an email address on the Exxon system under the pseudonym “Wayne Tracker” to discuss important company matters including risk-management issues related to climate change.
In a letter to the state Supreme Court, the New York attorney general’s office claimed that ExxonMobil “has continuously delayed and obstructed the production of documents from its top executives.” Schneiderman’s office is conducting an investigation into fraud at the company, involving what Exxon knew about climate science and the risks of climate change, when it knew it, and how the company may have mislead the public and investors about the risks associated with its fossil fuel products.
In late 2015, Schneiderman issued a subpoena demanding all relevant documents, including Tillerson’s emails. The Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com address was discovered by Schneiderman’s team while pouring through the more than 500,000 pages of documents that ExxonMobil did turn over. According to the attorney general’s letter, however, the company never told investigators that the Wayne Tracker account was Tillerson’s.
“Despite the company’s incidental production of approximately 60 documents bearing the ‘Wayne Tracker’ email address, neither Exxon nor its counsel have ever disclosed that this separate email account was a vehicle for Mr. Tillerson’s relevant communications at Exxon.”
So why the secrecy? “The logical explanation is that because of this campaign of climate denial, discussion of climate change was kept off to the side and intended to be somewhat hidden,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, on CNN. The revelation of these emails make it more likely that Tillerson will now face deposition and be questioned under oath about misleading investors about the risks of climate change to Exxon’s business and will have to answer for the use of the secret alias.
Perhaps the more important question is, why Wayne Tracker? The equal parts goofy and macho moniker is a lightly veiled reference to his middle name (Wayne), and his well-known love of the Boy Scouts and outdoor skills. Predictably, plenty of fun is being had with the name. See, for instance, Stephen Colbert’s monologue as Wayne Tracker:
We just passed 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, almost 40 years after we (Exxon) figured out it was a problem. You’re welcome. #ExxonKnew— Wayne Tracker (@Wayne Tracker)1489443016.0
Tillerson isn’t the first person in the Trump administration to find themselves in a bit of hot water over sketchy use of email. EPA administration Scott Pruitt told Congress during his confirmation hearing that he had never used private email while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, but emails obtained by The Center for Media and Democracy later proved that he had.
And who could forget that Trump himself used to use an alias—John Barron, if you’re nasty—to talk to and handle tough questions from reporters about business deals (and to boast about his love life to gossip rags).