The world’s largest publicly-traded oil and gas company by market value (China’s Sinopec and Royal Dutch Shell are larger by revenue) has ridden out the collapse in crude prices better than most, its vertically-integrated model allowing downstream businesses to capture the value that upstream operations lose when oil prices are low. Even so, ExxonMobil’s once impregnable balance sheet is showing holes: the company lost its AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s in April after 67 years. Total spending on investments and dividends was 40% more than the combined cash flow from operations and asset sales in 2015 (it wants to cut capex by 25% this year). ExxonMobil remains the industry benchmark for everything from profitability to safety standards, but its rocky relationship with climate change remains its Achilles’ heel. State attorneys in both New York and California have opened probes into whether it misled investors over the risks to its business from climate change, against a background of allegations (which it denies) that it suppressed scientific research that came to inconvenient conclusions.
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Fortune’s Geoff Colvin explains.