WASHINGTON, D.C. – ExxonMobil has hit back against the Deep State Obama-loyalists in the Treasury Dept. by filing a federal lawsuit, challenging the finding by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that the company violated U.S. sanctions against Russia in 2014, was contrived and completely without merit when examined against the factual record.
“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,” ExxonMobil argued in a filing made Thursday in U.S. District Court.
“OFAC’s action is fundamentally unfair and constitutes a denial of due process under the Constitution and violates the Administrative Procedure Act because market participants, including ExxonMobil, did not have notice of the interpretation OFAC now seeks to retroactively enforce,” ExxonMobil’s legal filing insisted.
At the center of the dispute is the Treasury Dept.’s assertion Exxon-Mobil violated Ukraine-related sanctions by signing on or about May 14, 2014, and May 23, 2014, eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with Russia’s government-owned oil and natural gas Rosneft that were signed by Igor Sechin in his capacity as president of Rosneft.
The problem is the Treasury Dept. press release dated April 28, 2014, that announced sanctions on Sechin, named a total of seven Russian government officials and 17 business entities that were being placed under sanctions over Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, but specifically noted that Rosneft was not included as one of the Russian businesses placed under sanction.
The Treasury Dept. press release dated April 28, 2014, distinguished that “Rosneft is a state-owned company and has not been sanctioned.”
In filing the federal lawsuit, ExxonMobil attorneys argued the company followed the clear guidance from the White House and Treasury Dept. when its representatives signed documents involving ongoing oil and gas activities in Russia with Rosneft – a non-blocked entity — that were countersigned on behalf of Rosneft by Sechin in his official capacity.
The ExxonMobil attorneys additionally argued correctly that at the time of the signing, those activities themselves were not under any direct sanction by the U.S. government.
As Infowars.com reported yesterday, a legal memorandum on “Ukraine-Related Sanctions” published by the prestigious law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, dated May 2, 2014, strongly suggests ExxonMobil did nothing wrong signing legal agreements with Rosneft that Sechin signed as CEO.
“Notably, the most recent designations include Igor Sechin, the President and Management Board Chairmen of Rosneft, Russia’s leading petroleum company, but do not include Rosneft itself,” the Sullivan and Cromwell memo specified.
An ExxonMobil press release issued Thursday noted that OFAC alleges that ExxonMobil violated sanctions when it signed certain documents in May 2014 that were countersigned on behalf of Rosneft by Sechin acting in his official capacity as a Rosneft executive.
OFAC has acknowledged that White House and Treasury Dept. officials repeatedly said sanctions involving Sechin applied only to his personal affairs and not to companies that he managed or represented, the ExxonMobil stressed.
A March 17, 2014, a White House Fact Sheet said: “Our current focus is to identify these individuals and target their personal assets, but not companies that they may manage on behalf of the Russian state.”
The position was confirmed on May 16, 2014 by a Treasury Dept. spokesperson, who said by way of example that BP’s American CEO was permitted to participate in Rosneft board meetings with Sechin so long as the activity related to Rosneft’s business and not Sechin’s personal business.
However, two months later, in July 2014, despite the White House and Treasury guidance that had already been given, OFAC contacted ExxonMobil to say it was still formulating its own policy.
At the heart of the ExxonMobil lawsuit is that OFAC change the rules after giving ExxonMobil guidance in 2014 in that allowing Sechin to sign the Rosneft contracts did not violate the Ukraine-Related Sanctions.
The ExxonMobil brief in the federal District Court case reads in part as follows:
- “OFAC now seeks to penalize ExxonMobil retroactively based on eight documents executed in May 2014 with Rosneft Oil Company (“Rosneft”), the Russian state-owned oil company (the “Documents”). At the time those documents were executed in 2014, Rosneft was not subject to any sanctions, and no sanctions prohibited the activities called for or reflected in those documents. Instead, the sole basis of OFAC’s July 20, 2017 penalty notice (the “Penalty Notice”) is that the documents were signed on behalf of Rosneft by its President and Chairman, Igor Sechin, who at the time was subject to sanctions only in his individual capacity.”
The ExxonMobil brief continues to note the following:
- “OFAC’s current position is that this fact alone suffices to render the conduct unlawful. That position is plainly incorrect. It relies on a new interpretation by OFAC that had not been announced at the time of the challenged conduct, contravenes the plain text of the relevant executive order, and is directly contrary to contemporaneous, authoritative guidance from the White House and Treasury Department, which repeatedly made clear, at the time Mr. Sechin was sanctioned, that the challenged conduct was lawful.”
In a interview published by the BBC on Sept. 2, 2014, the BBC described Sechin as the second most powerful man in Russia, ranked second only to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the complicated Russian power structure.
The BBC reported Sechin and Putin have known each other since the 1990s, when the two worked together in the St. Petersburg government, with Putin appointing Sechin his deputy chief of staff during Putin’s first term as president, then as deputy prime minister.
The BBC noted Rosneft controls more oil and natural gas reserves than the energy giant ExxonMobil, with Rosneft producing 4.2 million barrels of oil daily, then estimated at almost 5 percent of global consumption.