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United States fines ExxonMobil $2M for violating Russian sanctions

United States fines ExxonMobil $2M for violating Russian sanctions

The U.S. Treasury Department has fined Exxon Mobil Corporation $2 million for violating Russian Federation sanctions related to Ukraine, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO of the global oil and gas conglomerate.

Investigators said the company engaged in a deal with Igor Sechin, the president of state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft OAO - one of the oligarchs who faced personal and business sanctions for his support of the Russian economy and the Kremlin's support for the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Exxon maintained it had done nothing wrong.

Treasury's enforcement action said that the executive order, its guidance for companies and the administration's public statements "all clearly put ExxonMobil on notice that OFAC would consider executing documents with [people subject to sanctions] to violate the prohibitions in the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations". The agreements were announced as Russian Federation annexed Crimea. Still, the sanctions breach on his watch raises significant questions about his ability to credibly enforce the sanctions and to persuade European countries to keep doing so.

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The Treasury Department slapped Exxon with a $2 million fine - the maximum allowed under current law - and said the company had "demonstrated reckless disregard" for the requirements of the sanctions.

The violations occurred in May of that year when the now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO of ExxonMobil, according to a filing by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Exxon Mobil, whose chief executive at the time is now the US secretary of state, pushed back strongly, calling the action "fundamentally unfair". Sechin was among those sanctioned by the USA after Russia's occupation of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine. "No materials issued by the White House or the Department of the Treasury asserted an exception or carve-out for the professional conduct of designated or blocked persons, nor did any materials suggest that US persons could continue to conduct or engage in business with such individuals". Rosneft itself is subject to narrower USA sanctions that still allow Americans to deal with the company on some transactions.

A spokesman for Exxon called the fine "outrageous" and said Treasury's findings are a complete 180-degree turn from previous guidance handed down by the Obama administration at the time the sanctions were enacted. The government noted that its website at the time explicitly warned companies not to enter any contracts signed by people on the blacklist.


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