Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Mnuchin

430 F. Supp. 3d 220 (2019)

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Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Mnuchin

United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas
430 F. Supp. 3d 220 (2019)

  • Written by Brett Stavin, JD

Facts

On March 6, 2014, President Obama declared that the actions of certain persons asserting governmental authority in the Crimea region of Ukraine posed a threat to United States foreign policy. Subsequently, on March 16, 2014, the president issued Executive Order 13661 (executive order), proclaiming that the actions of the Russian government with respect to Ukraine also posed a threat to the United States. The executive order authorized the secretary (defendant) of the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to promulgate regulations to carry out its purpose, including by using the title specially designated national (SDN) for persons and entities whose property could be frozen based on their ties to Russia. The day after issuing the executive order, the White House press secretary released a fact sheet stating that the president’s focus was the SDNs, not necessarily any companies that the SDNs managed on behalf of Russia. The press secretary further stated that the intent was to “target their personal assets and wealth, rather than the business entities and industries that they manage or oversee.” On April 28, 2014, the secretary of the Treasury designated Igor Sechin as an SDN. Sechin was the president of Rosneft, a Russia-owned oil company. The Department of the Treasury noted that Rosneft itself had not been sanctioned and that Sechin was being sanctioned individually. Media reports also framed the designation of Sechin as an SDN as extending only to him in his individual capacity. On May 23, 2014, Exxon Mobil Corporation (Exxon) (plaintiff) executed eight contracts with Rosneft, each of which were signed by Sechin. Exxon did not seek any guidance from the government regarding the scope of the sanctions before proceeding with the transactions. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) found that these transactions violated the executive order and its corresponding regulations. The OFAC imposed a $2 million fine on Exxon. Subsequently, Exxon filed suit in federal district court to challenge the fine, arguing in part that the OFAC failed to provide fair notice that Exxon’s conduct violated the executive order and the regulations.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Boyle, J.)

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