US Fines Exxon For Violating Russia Sanctions Under Tillerson

ExxonMobil was fined $2 million for violating sanctions against Russian Federation in 2014, the Treasury Department said Thursday.

In assessing the $2 million fine, Treasury said of the ExxonMobil that "the presidents of its US subsidiaries dealt in services of an individual whose property and interests in property were blocked" by the USA government, referring to Sechin.

The Treasury, under orders from then-President Barack Obama, levied sanctions against several leading Russian businessmen with strong ties to the Kremlin in a bid to loosen President Vladimir Putin's grip on power.

Among them were that "Exxon Mobil's senior-most executives knew of Mr Sechin' s status. when they dealt in the blocked services of Sechin". Treasury officials said the executive orders made no such distinction.

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The US Treasury said the oil company had shown "reckless disregard" for sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in 2014 over Russia's annexation of Crimea. The company said the eight legal documents it signed were related to ventures with Rosneft, not Sechin personally.

By dealing with Sechin, the company "caused significant harm" to USA sanctions on Russian Federation, the Treasury said. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Thursday that the agency was alerted to the fine on Wednesday.

In April of that year at a Treasury briefing, it was explicitly stated that sanctions were applicable to Igor Sechin "individually", not in his capacity as the head of a Russian government-owned corporation.

"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.

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Exxon-which made almost $8 billion in profit past year and could perhaps afford better lawyers-called the action "fundamentally unfair".

"You could have Sechin standing over the guy's shoulder", said Mortlock, now an attorney at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in Washington.

Nevertheless, in May 2014 Tillerson chose not to attend an oil industry forum in Moscow, instead sending top lieutenant Neil Duffin, who signed an agreement with Sechin to explore for oil in the Arctic Ocean. The press release statements provided context for the policy rationale surrounding the targeted approach during the early days of the Ukraine crisis, which was to isolate designated individuals who were targeted as a result of the crisis in Ukraine, rather than imposing blocking sanctions on the large companies that they managed.

As head of the oil company, he signed deals with Rosneft, leading Russian Federation to award him the Order of Friendship in 2013.

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