Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was known as Wayne Tracker for at least seven years of his tenure as Exxon's chief according to court documents filed by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Wayne Tracker alias was used for Tillerson emails regarding "risk-management issues related to climate change." Exxon has said that Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com is listed as a legitimate address in the company's system.

Is this a problem?

To assess why the New York State Attorney General is interested in this is to arrive at the edge of a portentous but largely unrevealed question.

How in today's iffy oil environment are the huge assets of the industry to be valued? The criminal aspect of the matter is apparently related to possible discrepancies in public representations of climate change by the company and actual valuation of assets. It would be a problem if Exxon was found to have minimized the effects of climate change while secretly devaluing its own assets.

Is it a problem for Tillerson?

It is not clear what problem exists for Tillerson. Attorney General Schneiderman is operating under what the Wall Street Journal calls broad powers based on a New York State law called the Martin Act. It empowers him to carry out extensive probes into securities fraud and to seek both criminal and civil penalties.

If Tillerson can be tied to explicit acts that belie the company's public sanguinity regarding climate change, he might have a problem.

Does this affect Trump?

Trump bears some responsibility for the deeds of his associates. The President appears to be weathering the fallout from the departure of Michael Flynn as his national security advisor.

Discuss this news on Eunomia

Flynn was caught lying about his contacts with Russia. It is not clear what Tillerson's situation is. He appears to be a largely powerless Secretary of State, not privy to Trump's inner circle and somewhat opaque in his public presence. If this affects Trump, it is probably not close to the top of his list of worries.