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Department of the Treasury Fines Exxon $2 Million for Violating Russia Sanctions

The Department of the Treasury announced on Thursday it has fined Exxon Mobil $2 million for violating sanctions against Russia in 2014—when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was still at the company's helm.

The United States first imposed the sanctions on Russia in March of 2014, after Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Harsher sanctions were imposed against oil drilling technology transfers and Rosneft, Russia's largest oil company, after Moscow was implicated in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine. The violation of the sanctions occurred in May of that year, when Exxon subsidiaries signed legal documents related to oil and gas projects with Igor Sechin, the chairman of Rosneft who was listed under the sanctions as a Specially Designated National—a designation that would prohibit Americans from doing business with him.

Exxon officials claimed the White House and Department of the Treasury did not make clear that the sanctions extended to Sechin's professional capacity, and called the fine "fundamentally unfair." But the Department of the Treasury dismissed Exxon's argument, and found that the company "demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements."

Tillerson criticized the sanctions as CEO of Exxon in 2014 as ineffective, and claimed that the measures disadvantaged U.S. companies. But as secretary of state, he has pledged to stay out of decisions that would affect his former company.