Feds fine Exxon $2M for violating Russian Federation sanctions while Tillerson was CEO

21 July, 2017, 00:55 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Exxon Mobil has been fined $2 million for violating Russia sanctions while Tillerson was CEO

Oil giant ExxonMobil was fined $2 million Thursday for violating USA sanctions against Russian Federation three years ago - when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was still the company's chief executive.

The Treasury Department says Exxon showed "reckless disregard" for sanctions by dealing with a person on that blacklist, and that top Exxon executives knew Sechin was blacklisted when they did business with him.

In violation of these sanctions against Russia, ExxonMobil made various deals with Rosneft OAO, an oil company owned by the Russian government, the Treasury Department said.

ExxonMobil claimed that there was confusion over Sechin's "professional and personal capacity" as an agent of the Russian government, but due to the lack of such a distinction in both the executive order and original Ukraine-Related Sanctions, the Treasury determined the fine was justified.

ExxonMobil said the decision was "fundamentally unfair", and sued the USA government in Texas in an effort to overturn the decision.

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Exxon is suing the Treasury Department and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

The fine was the maximum civil penalty it could level. Igor Sechin, president of Rosneft, had been on the department's List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list (SDN), establishing a clear violation of the sanctions by ExxonMobil. The company said the eight legal documents it signed were related to ventures with Rosneft, not Sechin personally.

"Based on the Enforcement Information published today, OFAC is trying to retroactively enforce a new interpretation of an executive order that is inconsistent with the explicit and unambiguous guidance from the White House and Treasury issued before the relevant conduct and still publicly available today", the statement said.

Exxon plans to challenge the action.

But Ofac said there had been several aggravating factors.

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According to a penalty filed today by the Treasury Department, the presidents of Exxon's USA subsidiaries in 2014 signed eight agreements for oil and gas projects with Igor Sechin, the president of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft and a close ally of Vladimir Putin. Tillerson stepped down as CEO of ExxonMobil in December 2016 to lead the Trump Administration's State Department. Those sanctions cost his company hundreds of millions of dollars.

The violation, which the Treasury Department announced July 20, occurred in May 2014, just weeks after President Barack Obama announced the sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula.

Sechin was Tillerson's main partner in Exxon's bid to drill in the Arctic's Kara Sea, with its vast untapped potential. During that time, current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was still Exxon's CEO.

President Obama signed an executive order establishing sanctions on Russian Federation on March 16, 2014. Tillerson visited the White House numerous times as CEO to protest the sanctions, but they remained in place.

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