In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

ExxonMobil Case Fans Fire Around Ex-CEO

President Trump's Russia affair just got more complicated, but the latest twist is turning into a nightmare for a major corporation and its former chief executive officer.

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, was head of ExxonMobil three years ago. The company struck a deal with Russian oligarch Igor Sechin on behalf of Rosneft oil, but then the United States sanctioned Sechin for backing Russia when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine a year later.

Now the U.S. has fined ExxonMobil $2 million for violating the sanctions orders, the oil company is suing the government back, and Tillerson is about to quit his job.

ExxonMobil Suit

In its lawsuit, ExxonMobil says the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control changed the rules on its sanctions against Russia. Sechin -- not the Russian oil company -- was sanctioned.

"OFAC seeks 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," the company said in the U.S. District Court.

ExxonMobil says it followed the federal government's lead when it signed documents involving oil and gas activities in Russia that Sechin signed in his official capacity for Rosneft.

Those activities were not under any direct sanction by the U.S. government, ExxonMobil says. The Treasury Department disagrees, saying the sanction orders do not separate personal and government business.

Tillerson Connection

According to reports, Tillerson is ready to quit after he was found to have violated the sanctions order when he was CEO of ExxonMobil. At the same time, he is frustrated with the Trump White House.

Last month, he reportedly blew up at Trump staffers at a White House meeting. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner called Tillerson "unprofessional."

Kushner, who is set to testify before the Senate, is fanning the Russia affair fire by denying collusion with a Russian attorney about Trump's presidential campaign. "I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government," he said.

Donald Trump, Jr., however, met with the Russian to receive information that "would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russian that would be very useful to your father," the New York Times reported.

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