Exxon has filed a lawsuit challenging the decision and called it “fundamentally unfair.”
According to a penalty filed today by the Treasury Department, the presidents of Exxon’s U.S. subsidiaries in 2014 signed eight agreements for oil and gas projects with Igor Sechin, the president of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft.
Tillerson remains committed to these sanctions, Nauert added, deferring all other questions to Exxon and the Treasury Department.
Exxon signed the agreements between May 14 and May 23, 2014. Tillerson served as CEO from 2006 to 2016 before retiring and joining the Trump administration.
A report by the Treasury Department announcing the penalty singles out the company's top leaders after saying that the company “demonstrated reckless disregard” for the U.S. sanctions against Sechin. “ExxonMobil’s senior-most executives knew of Sechin’s status” on the sanction list when they made the deals, the report says.
Nauert wouldn’t say whether Tillerson was involved in the decision, saying, “I don’t know if that’s the case or not.” But last Wednesday, Tillerson told reporters that at Exxon, “I was the ultimate decision maker.”
The Treasury report called the violation “an egregious case” adding, “ExxonMobil caused significant harm to the Ukraine-related sanctions program objectives.”
Exxon has accused the government of changing the rules and said it has no intention of paying the $2 million fine.
The oil giant earned $7.8 billion in 2016.
Exxon applied for a waiver from these same sanctions in April, but the Treasury Department denied them.
Nauert wouldn’t say whether Tillerson would recuse himself from any future Russia sanctions issues given that the company he lead violated them. “Any subsequent conversations that may come down the pike – I’m not going to get ahead of what those might be.”