Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Please Support Common Dreams This #GivingTuesday

Our staff has grown and our coverage of the climate emergency, COVID-19, and rising authoritarianism has intensified over the last two years. But, our expenses during the pandemic have gone up as well. This has been one of the toughest years we’ve ever faced. Donations are down. Traffic to the website from Google and Facebook have inexplicably fallen off a cliff. If we have any chance of meeting our fundraising targets for the year, we need this to be the best #GivingTuesday ever. Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers ever make a donation. We're counting on you. Can you make that gift today to help Common Dreams end the year strong?

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil when the company violated U.S. sanctions against Russian officials in 2014. (Photo: Greenpeace/PolluterWatch)

After Exxon Fined for Sanctions Violations, Calls for Rex Tillerson to Resign

When secretary of state was CEO of ExxonMobil, says Treasury, the oil giant showed a "reckless disregard" for sanctions

Jessica Corbett

"It's time Rex Tillerson step down or be removed," said Gigi Kellett of Corporate Accountability International, following an announcement on Thursday that ExxonMobil will pay $2 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Russian officials while the now-secretary of state was the company's CEO.

"This is nothing more than a parking ticket."
—Gigi Kellett, Corporate Accountability International

"ExxonMobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanction requirements," according to enforcement filing released by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which issued the penalty. Though the fine is reportedly the maximum penalty allowed, it's pittance to one of the world's most profitable and powerful corporations, which last year reported a profit of $7.8 billion.

"This is nothing more than a parking ticket," Kellett said.

OFAC says ExxonMobil violated sanctions against Russian officials in May 2014, by "signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with Igor Sechin, the President of Rosneft," Russia's state-owned oil company. The sanctions were established two months earlier by then-President Barack Obama, in response to the Russian government's actions in Ukraine.

In a statement Thursday, ExxonMobil claimed it "followed the clear guidance from the White House and Treasury Department when its representatives signed the documents," and that "OFAC is trying to retroactively enforce a new interpretation" of the sanctions, adding, "OFAC's action is fundamentally unfair."

The OFAC filing, however, says the company's "senior-most executives knew" the sanctions barred them from signing deals with Sechin, calling ExxonMobil "a sophisticated and experienced oil and gas company" that routinely navigates U.S. sanctions and export rules. Tillerson stepped down as CEO of ExxonMobil in December 2016 to lead the Trump Administration's State Department. After the department refused reporters' requests for comment on Thursday, Foreign Policy's Robbie Gramer took to Twitter:

In addition to calling for Tillerson's resignation, Kellett said: "At every level, ExxonMobil and the rest of the fossil fuel industry must be held accountable for their abuses. That may start with this $2 million fine, but it will end when all Big Polluters are held liable for their abuses and cast out of policymaking for good."

Celebrating Thursday's small victory against the world's largest oil company, Greenpeace USA climate director Kelly Mitchell said, "Even with Rex Tillerson leading the State Department, people in this country can hold powerful corporations accountable and must continue to do so."

"This move should embolden United States attorneys general in their investigations into what ExxonMobil and Rex Tillerson knew about the risks of climate change and the company’s potential withholding of that information from the public and shareholders," Mitchell added.

The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts have launched probes to investigate reports that the company, for decades, misled its investors and the public about the dangers of climate change. The allegations have also lead to calls for Tillerson to resign from his position as head of the U.S. State Department.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

WHO, South Africa Urge Nations to Lift 'Naive' Omicron Travel Bans

"The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic."

Brett Wilkins ·


EU Joins Rights Group in Condemning Israel's 'Day of Destruction' of Palestinian Homes

"Demolitions are illegal under international law and significantly undermine the prospects for peace."

Brett Wilkins ·


GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·


Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo