Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

Exxon Says "Egregious" Sanctions Violations Were Just a Misunderstanding

People participate in a June 29 rally in New York to protest President Trump's travel ban People participate in a June 29 rally in New York to protest President Trump's travel ban
Connie Andrews | 21 July, 2017, 00:48

The Treasury Department has fined Exxon Mobil $2 million for violating Ukraine-related sanctions against Russian Federation - while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO.

Exxon violated USA sanctions on Russia during May 2014 when it signed eight documents relating to oil and gas projects in Russia with Igor Sechin, the president of Russian state-oil firm Rosneft, Treasury said in an enforcement notice posted to its website.

The department's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed the civil penalty after concluding Exxon Mobil did not voluntarily disclose the violations, which "constitute an egregious case", it said in a statement.

Sechin was among top Russian officials to be blacklisted by the USA for Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

In May 2014, Exxon's chief executive was Rex Tillerson, now U.S. Secretary of State. Mr. Sechin was added to the USA sanctions list in April of that year, with US officials stressing his "utter loyalty" to President Vladimir Putin, though he shrugged at them at the time. BP CEO Bob Dudley, Exxon said, was allowed to keep working on Rosneft's board of directors alongside Sechin as long as he didn't deal with Sechin's personal business.

He added: the "action is fundamentally unfair". Foreign Policy magazine reported "Sechin's personal assets will be frozen, but Treasury officials said the designation wouldn't impact US companies' ability to do business with Rosneft because Sechin does not control the firm".

"The 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", Exxon said.

The Treasury announced sanctions on Sechin in April 2014 as part of measures to pressure Russian Federation over its intervention in Ukraine, saying Sechin had shown "utter loyalty" to Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

ExxonMobil had fully complied with guidance from Democratic former President Barack Obama's administration that ongoing oil and gas business activities with Rosneft were permitted, Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said in a statement.

Sechin signed the documents on behalf of Rosneft, Jeffers said.

Tillerson established close relations with Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, while he was CEO of Exxon Mobil.

Concerns about Tillerson's potential conflict of interest dominated his confirmation hearings in January, and the secretary has recused himself from matters dealing with his former company.

The US imposed sanctions against Russian Federation amid rising tension in Ukraine. The State Department said it wasn't involved in the decision to punish Exxon for violating the sanctions.

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