New York Magazine Profile, "The Rockefellers vs. the Company That Made Them Rockefellers"
John D. Rockefeller once said that “God gave me my money,” much as He had given human beings dominion over the Earth, and though John D. couldn’t have known it then, the original sin of the Rockefeller family would be committed in 1863, when he opened his first oil refinery in Cleveland. Within a few decades, Standard Oil controlled more than 90 percent of petroleum production in the United States, and by the time of his death in 1937, God had given John D. a fortune that made him the richest man in the world.
As the 20th century wore on and John D.’s descendants converted the family’s oil money into a broader empire — building Rockefeller Center, becoming governors, senators, vice-presidents — the world began its fossil-fuel-induced march, with increasing speed, toward environmental disaster. Climate change wasn’t directly the Rockefellers’ fault, of course: The family more or less got out of the oil business in 1911, when the Supreme Court deemed Standard Oil too big to exist, splitting it into 34 companies, including two that became ExxonMobil. And if John D. hadn’t dug the wells, someone else would have. But as the 21st century dawned, it became impossible for younger Rockefellers to spend time at the family’s island estate in Maine without recognizing that the waves lapping closer and closer to their home were the result, at least in part, of their good fortune.
All of which is how ExxonMobil found itself in federal court this past November arguing that the Rockefellers were funding a conspiracy against it. Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York was hearing the latest arguments in a legal battle that had begun more than two years prior, when members of the Rockefeller clan, in their latest attempt to pressure the erstwhile family business to deal with climate change, funded journalists who uncovered documents showing Exxon had known about the dangers of burning fossil fuels for decades while publicly denying it was much of a problem at all. The Rockefeller-backed reports had inspired multiple state attorneys general to investigate whether Exxon might be liable like tobacco companies that lied about the cancer risks of smoking had been...