Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM) launched a legal challenge to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control ruling that the company violated US sanctions against Russian Federation in 2014, The Fly reported.
The Treasury announced sanctions on Sechin in April 2014 as part of measures to pressure Russian Federation over its intervention in Ukraine, saying Sechin had shown "utter loyalty" to Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Igor Sechin, president of Rosneft, had been on the department's List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list (SDN), establishing a clear violation of the sanctions by ExxonMobil.
Exxon Mobil, whose chief executive at the time is now the US secretary of state, pushed back strongly, calling the action "fundamentally unfair".
Exxon officials contended that they believed the sanctions against Sechin left room for "personal" business deals and only applied to "professional" conduct.
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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". The U.S. says Exxon caused "significant harm" to the sanctions program.
In May 2014, the presidents of Exxon's USA subsidiaries "dealt in services" with Russian oil tycoon Igor Sechin by signing "eight legal documents" with him linked to Russian oil and gas projects, the Treasury Department said.
Exxon Mobil, at the time of the alleged violation, was headed by Rex Tillerson, who is now the USA secretary of state.
Mr Sechin was Mr Tillerson's main partner as Exxon sought to drill in the Arctic's Kara Sea, which has vast untapped potential.
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The State Department declined to comment, referring questions to Exxon.
Mr. Tillerson, who has deep ties to Russian Federation and received an Order of Friendship from Moscow, left the firm to become U.S. Secretary of State.
The fine was the maximum civil penalty it could level. Tillerson visited the White House numerous times as CEO in the immediate aftermath of the sanctions being announced, but they remained in place. Tillerson has recused himself from any decisions regarding his former employer for his first two years as Secretary, according to the State Department.
"The secretary continues to abide by his ethical commitments, including that recusal from Exxon-related commitments", said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
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The US in April said it would not waive sanctions to allow Exxon to resume drilling in Russian Federation.