Trump Secretary of State nominee and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson denies the company lobbied on Russian sanctions, but federal disclosure filings in 2014 raise questions.
Rex Tillerson, who recently gave up his post as CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., told Congress during his Secretary of State confirmation hearing he’s made a clean break from his private sector life.
“My love of country and my patriotism will dictate that I serve no one else but the American people,” he said.
Tillerson split from ExxonMobil in December, shortly after President-elect Donald Trump chose him as his nominee for Secretary of State. If confirmed, Tillerson will transfer about $182 million in deferred ExxonMobil shares into an independently managed trust. He will also give up more than $4.1 million in cash bonuses during the next three years and he will sell the upward of 600,000 shares he owns in the company. Tillerson has worked at ExxonMobil for more than 40 years.
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were expected to grill Tillerson on his ties to Russia, sanctions and climate change among other things. ExxonMobil has operated in Russia for more than 20 years, which includes longstanding business ties with Rosneft.
The senators did not disappoint.
On what was dubbed “D-Day for Grillerson” by analysts at R.W. Baird in their daily note to investors, Tillerson took tough questions senators, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and ranking minority leader Sen. Ben Cardin, R-Mayland, on Russian actions in Crimea and elsewhere.
“We expect the savvy oil boss to weather whatever the politicians throw at him on his way to confirmation,” the analysts said.
Confronted by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, on ExxonMobil’s business success in Russia and other oil-producing nations, as well as the derailing of certain sanctions, Tillerson said neither he, nor ExxonMobil lobbied against sanctions.
“I have never lobbied against sanctions. To my knowledge, Exxon never lobbied against sanctions to my knowledge,” he said, adding that any actions on behalf of the company were done with full transparency and according to legal process.
Among its filings with the U.S. House of Representative in 2014 under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, ExxonMobil did conduct lobbying activity related to sanctions, specifically the Russian Aggression Prevent Act of 2014. The Wall Street Journal noted other instances dating back to 2006, which also appear to contradict Tillerson’s assertion.
However, ExxonMobil insisted the company didn’t lobby against the sanctions, but on them.
"As our former chairman said, we provided information about impact of sanctions, but did not lobby against sanctions. The lobby disclosure reports you cited do not contradict his testimony," Spokesman Alan Jeffers told Rigzone.
Meanwhile, during his first news conference in months, Trump praised his choice of Tillerson.
“Harold Hamm (Continental Resources CEO and key Trump adviser) said, ‘There’s nobody in the business like Rex Tillerson.’ That’s why I wanted to bring him into government,” Trump said.
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