Exxon Reportedly Subject of Whistleblower Complaint to SEC

An SEC investigation of Exxon Mobil stems from an employee’s whistleblower complaint about an asset valuation, a media report says.
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Exxon Mobil  (XOM) - Get Report is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, responding to an employee’s whistleblower complaint, a media report says.

The complaint, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, accuses the Irving, Texas, oil titan of overvaluing one of its most important oil and gas holdings. 

Some workers who participated in valuing a property in the Permian Basin  complained internally that they were directed to use unrealistic estimates for how fast the company could drill wells there. Permian now ranks as the top producing U.S. oil field, according to The Journal.

At least one of the workers involved in the complaint was fired last year, a knowledgeable source told The Journal. The complaint led to the SEC investigation, sources told the paper.

Exxon spokesman Casey Norton declined to comment on whether there’s an investigation.

Exxon recently traded at $49.04, down 2.5%, as oil prices slid Friday. The stock has soared 47% in the past three months, as oil prices have rebounded. But it’s still down 27% over the past year through Thursday.

Morningstar analyst Allen Good last month put fair value for Exxon Mobil at $74. 

“We have long argued, and the historical returns support our contention, that Exxon is the highest-quality integrated overall (operating and assets), and its downstream and chemicals segments are key differentiators,” he wrote in a commentary.

“Although its lead in returns has diminished, it still stands to reason it should invest to maximize whatever advantages it retains.” 

To be sure, “execution and price risk are high” for its plans, Good said. But the company’s strength could bring success.