Latest Russia sanction violation truly puts Tillerson in the hot seat

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American oil and gas firm ExxonMobil was fined by the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday for violations committed in 2014 under former CEO and present Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Exxon’s books will be hit with a monetary penalty worth $2 million for making formal transactions with sanctioned Russian oil tycoon Igor Sechin in May 2014. According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), between May 14 and May 23, 2014, while Tillerson served as CEO, the president of Exxon’s U.S. subsidiaries signed eight legal documents pertaining to oil and gas projects in Russia with Sechin, who is president of Russian oil firm Rosneft.

OFAC called the case “egregious” because senior Exxon officials were reportedly aware of Sechin’s sanctioned status and still failed to voluntarily disclose the violations. The Treasury concluded that Exxon behaved with “reckless disregard for U.S. sanction requirements.”

“ExxonMobil caused significant harm to the Ukraine-related sanctions program objectives by engaging the services of an SDN designated on the basis that he is an official of the Government of the Russian Federation contributing to the crisis in Ukraine,” an OFAC release said.

The outlook is a poor one for Tillerson, as violating economic sanctions implemented at the national level calls into question his qualifications to be secretary of state. According to Reuters, the state department referred questions about Tillerson’s knowledge of the transgressions to Exxon, which said the Treasury is unfairly reinterpreting Obama’s infracted executive order retroactively.

“The Treasury Department 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,” ExxonMobil spokesman Alan Jeffers said in a statement.

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