The U.S. Treasury Department accused Exxon Mobil of violating U.S. sanctions on Russia just weeks after they were imposed in 2014, as it hit the U.S oil and gas giant with a $2 million fine.
Exxon Mobil, whose chief executive at the time is now the U.S. secretary of state, pushed back strongly, calling the action “fundamentally unfair.”
The violation, which the Treasury Department announced July 20, occurred in May 2014, just weeks after President Barack Obama announced the sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula.
Those sanctions targeted, among others, the Russian state-controlled oil company Rosneft and its chief executive, Igor Sechin.
In its announcement, the Treasury Department said U.S. 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 Russia with Igor Sechin."
The $2 million fine appears to be a mainly symbolic move against Exxon Mobil, which brought in $7.8 billion in revenue last year.
Exxon Mobil, at the time of the alleged violation, was headed by Rex Tillerson, who is now the U.S. secretary of state.
In a statement e-mailed to RFE/RL, Exxon Mobil took exception to the accusations, saying the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control was trying to “retroactively enforce” an earlier order.
“Exxon Mobil followed the clear guidance from the White House and Treasury Department when its representatives signed documents involving ongoing oil and gas activities in Russia with Rosneft -- a nonblocked entity -- that were countersigned on behalf of Rosneft by CEO Igor Sechin in his official representative capacity,” said William Holbrook, a company spokesman.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control ”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,” he said.
He added: the “action is fundamentally unfair.”