Exxon Says "Egregious" Sanctions Violations Were Just a Misunderstanding

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ExxonMobil has been handed a fine of $2 million for breaching anti-Russia sanctions, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Thursday in an online statement.

Those included "reckless disregard for US sanctions requirements when it failed to consider warning signs associated with dealing in the blocked services of (a sanctioned person), that "Exxon Mobil's senior-most executives knew of Sechin' s status. when they dealt in the blocked services of Sechin", that the deals "caused significant harm to the Ukraine-related sanctions program objectives" and that the company "is a sophisticated and experienced oil and gas company that has global operations and routinely deals in goods, services and technology subject to U.S economic sanctions and USA export controls". The sanctions prohibit any business dealings with those listed.

A New York Times story that month quoted a Treasury Department official saying, "U.S. persons are not prohibited from dealing with Rosneft, including participating in meetings of the company board on which Mr. Sechin sits". Treasury officials said the executive orders made no such distinction.

In April 2014, in response to its "continuing provocations in Ukraine", the Obama administration expanded its economic sanctions against Russia, freezing the assets of 17 Russian companies and seven Russians linked to Vladimir Putin, as well as prohibiting USA dealings with those parties.

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

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According to the Treasury, Exxon "demonstrated reckless disregard for USA sanctions requirements" and "caused significant harm to the Ukraine-related sanctions program objectives".

"The secretary continues to abide by his ethical commitments, including that recusal from Exxon-related commitments", said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

The American oil giant was found to have conducted business with Igor Sechin, the head of the state-owned Rosneft in May 2014. 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".

"OFAC's action is fundamentally unfair", he said.

Authorities suggested Exxon should have known better than to deal with Sechin because it's a "sophisticated and experienced" company that "routinely" deals with sanctions issues.

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President Barack Obama signed an executive order in March 2014 targeting those involved in an escalating conflict along the Russia-Ukraine border, including Russia's annexation of Crimea.

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

The US in April said it would not waive sanctions to allow Exxon to resume drilling in Russian Federation. In 2013, Tillerson won an award from the Russian government called the "Order of Friendship" after signing deals with Rosneft that began a drilling program in the Arctic's Kara Sea.

On a trip to Kiev earlier this month, he said the sanctions would not be lifted until Russian Federation met its obligations.

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