In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Sanders asked for a probe into what he called a "potential instance of corporate fraud" by the oil giant.
"Exxon Mobil knew the truth about fossil fuels and climate change and lied to protect their business model at the expense of the planet," Sanders said. He likened Exxon Mobil's conduct to claims by the tobacco industry about the health risks associated with smoking.
In his letter, Sanders cited an investigation by Inside Climate News, the non-profit, non-partisan news organization, which suggested that Exxon Mobil scientists conducted extensive research on climate change as early as 1977. The company's scientists reportedly found that climate change is real and caused partly by carbon pollution from petroleum products. Nevertheless, the world's fourth largest oil company participated in an industry-wide public relations campaign which cast doubt about the emerging scientific consensus on global warming. Since 1998, Exxon Mobil pumped $31 million into think tanks and organizations that tried to sow doubts about mainstream climate science.
"These reports, if true, raise serious allegations of a misinformation campaign that may have caused public harm similar to the tobacco industry's actions -- conduct that led to federal racketeering convictions," Sanders wrote in the letter to the nation's top law enforcement official.
"Based on available public information, it appears that Exxon knew its product was causing harm to the public, and spent millions of dollars to obfuscate the facts in the public discourse. The information that has come to light about Exxon's past activities raises potentially serious concerns that should be investigated," Sanders told the attorney general.
To read Sanders' letter to the attorney general, click here.
To read the Exxon Mobil scientists' memos obtained by Inside Climate News, click here