US Fines Exxon $2 Million Over Russia Sanctions Breaches

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

In its announcement, the Treasury Department said US subsidiaries of Exxon Mobil "dealt in services of an individual whose property and interests in property were blocked, namely, by signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russian Federation with Igor Sechin".

Treasury said in a statement that Exxon under Tillerson's leadership had shown "reckless disregard" for sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russian entities in 2014 over Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Tillerson served as CEO from 2006 to 2016 before retiring and joining the Trump administration, and the filing by Treasury makes clear: "ExxonMobil's senior-most executives knew of Sechin's status" on the sanction list when they made the deals.

"ExxonMobil followed the clear guidance from the White House and Treasury Department when its representatives signed documents involving ongoing oil and gas activities in Russian Federation with Rosneft - a non-blocked entity - that were countersigned on behalf of Rosneft by CEO Igor Sechin in his official representative capacity", the company said in a statement Thursday.

The enforcement action announced Thursday did not give further details about the dealings with Sechin, nor about which Exxon executives worked with him. The company pointed out that a Treasury Department spokesman had even said it would be permissible for an American CEO to attend a Rosneft board meeting with Sechin as long as it wasn't related to Sechin's "personal business".

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"OF AC determined that ExxonMobil did not voluntarily self-disclose the violations to OF AC", read the Treasury report, "and that the violations constitute an egregious case". The sanctions had exposed Exxon to up to $1bn in losses by the end of 2014, Exxon said. It leveled the statutory maximum civil penal of $2 million for the breaches.

Sechin is the CEO of Russian state oil giant Rosneft and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Tillerson left ExxonMobil to become secretary of state after 10 years at the helm of the global energy power.

"The secretary continues to abide by his ethical commitments, including that recusal from Exxon-related activities", Nauert said. The State Department declined to comment on Tillerson's role, referring all questions to Exxon.

As a diplomat, Tillerson has struck a different tone on sanctions and sought to maintain pressure on Russian Federation to stop interfering in eastern Ukraine. Tillerson, "knew of Sechin's status as an SDN (Specially Designated National) when they dealt in the blocked services of Sechin" and that "ExxonMobil is a sophisticated and experienced oil and gas company that has global operations and routinely deals in goods, services, and technology subject to U.S economic sanctions and USA export controls" and therefore should have known better.

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