According to a new report out from USA TODAY, ExxonMobil did business with Iran, Syria, and Sudan while Rex Tillerson — President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of state — was the top executive of the big oil company. Those countries were under U.S. sanctions during the time, according to Securities and Exchanging Commissions SEC filings, as they were considered state sponsors of terrorism.
Tillerson is up for confirmation in his new role on Wednesday, and his part in these potentially illegal dealings will surely surface.
The SEC documents were unearthed by Democratic research group American Bridge, and revealed that the sales occurred from 2003 to 2005, and were made by Infineum, in which ExxonMobil owned a 50 percent share.
According to USA TODAY, ExxonMobil responded that the transactions were legal because Infineum was based in Europe and did not involve any employees in the United States.
The filings from 2006 show that ExxonMobil, under Tillerson, had $53.2 million in sales to Iran, $1.1 million in sales to Syria, and $600,000 in sales to Sudan during the previous three-year period.
Tillerson became senior vice president of the big oil company in August 2001, was promoted to president and director in March 2004, and then CEO in January 2006.
According to USA TODAY, the letter from the SEC asked why ExxonMobil failed to disclose to shareholders that it had done business with three state sponsors of terrorism. The SEC told ExxonMobil in the letter that disclosures should be based on “the potential impact of corporate activities upon a company’s reputation and share value,” and not simply the monetary value of the transactions.
ExxonMobil’s response to the SEC was written by Richard Gutman, the company’s assistant general counsel at the time. He wrote that the transactions were “not material by any reasonable measure” and declined to address the SEC’s concerns about any potential harm to the reputation of the company.
Gutman wrote that Infineum, with whom ExxonMobil had a joint venture, managed “under a policy and procedure consistent with U.S. legal requirements and no United States person is involved in those business transactions,” although the subsidiary has offices in the U.S.
Alan Jeffers, current media manager for ExxonMobil told USA TODAY on Monday that:
‘These are all legal activities complying with the sanctions at the time. We didn’t feel they were material because of the size of the transactions.’
According to the ExxonMobil mindset, doing business of a few million with countries sanctioned by law during a time of war is no big deal compared to the company’s overall annual revenue of $371 billion. Jeffers added:
‘They (Infineum) have an independent management that operates the entity. And it’s not a U.S. entity.’
New Jersey’s Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, spoke to USA TODAY regarding his concerns about Rex Tillerson as secretary of state:
‘Mr. Tillerson’s actions as CEO of Exxon that were in direct contravention to express United States policies put in place to secure Americans and our country.’
‘Finding loopholes to make lucrative business deals with geo-political adversaries, while showing no clear regard for U.S. national interests, is not a resume builder for a prospective diplomat-in-chief.
‘This is one of the many issues I look forward to hearing more about during the upcoming confirmation hearings.’
Along with ties to Russia, who launched an influence campaign in an attempt to manipulate U.S. politics, Tillerson also doesn’t seem to mind doing business with declared enemies, even during a state of war or conflict. Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for his position as secretary of state will certainly prove interesting in light of this new information.
H/T: USA TODAY
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