It’s not a stretch to say that Exxon-Mobil doesn’t have the greatest reputation as an ethical player on the world economic stage. Aside from the eternal stigma of the oil spill in 1989 that wouldn’t be surpassed in volume and damage for more than two decades, the American multinational has faced scrutiny for human rights violations, partnerships with dictators, exploitation of the US tax code, and even allegations of influencing governmental policy here at home.
The latest trouble for Exxon-Mobil comes in the form of a fine levied against them by the United States Treasury for violating sanctions. While the amount of the fine — just $2 million — is about equal to two days’ profits for the massive corporation, the larger takeaway is who was in charge when the violations took place: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO when the company signed contracts for oil and gas projects in Russia in May of 2014. Those contracts were with Igor Sechin, the President of Rosneft, who was (and is) on a list of specially-designated people forbidden from doing business with the US after America imposed sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula.
Moreover, the violations were deemed “egregious” by the Treasury, the most serious designation at Treasury, who concluded that Exxon-Mobil had “demonstrated reckless disregard” in engaging Sechin. The Russian CEO was widely known as a prohibited individual, at the highest levels of Exxon-Mobil’s executive chain — meaning Tillerson himself knew he was breaking the rules. The company had applied for an exemption to the sanctions, which indicates they decided to forgo permission and simply hope they got away with it.
Since Tillerson’s selection, there has been no shortage of speculation that he would at some point attempt to influence Donald Trump to end sanctions on energy trade with Russia. Tillerson is, after all, pretty good pals with Vladimir Putin, having gotten an “Order of Friendship” award from the Russian despot back in 2013.
There is apparently nobody left in the Trump administration who doesn’t have extensive ties to Russia, but then, that’s what we’ve been investigating essentially since January.
Featured image via Alex Wong/Getty Images