Surprise! Powerful oil man Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for the next secretary of state, is also the director of a Bahamas-based U.S-Russian oil firm, leaked documents show.
Tillerson’s close relationship with Russia isn’t a secret to anyone, and the 2001 document, one of 1.3 million files given to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, doesn’t betray any technical wrongdoing on his behalf. It will, however, be brought up in what promises to be a very fraught confirmation hearing. I’m going to watch it while eating popcorn, salted with my own tears and lightly drizzled with my own eye-blood.
To wit, Tillerson’s company, Exxon Mobil, has a keen interest in Russia’s vast oil deposits. Putin, for his part, is in the Kremlin audibly licking his ursine chops—this is a man, after all, who personally awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship decoration in 2013 as a formal acknowledgment of game recognizing despotic game.
Tillerson also criticized sanctions against Russia—implemented after Russia annexed Crimea—as “ineffective.” Would you believe it if I told you that Exxon, in cooperation with the Russian company Rosneft, wanted to begin drilling in the Kara Sea in 2014 but was unable to because of those pesky sanctions? If they are indeed lifted under Trump’s presidency—and, considering Trump’s fealty to Putin, it seems promising—the deal would likely proceed, adding untold value to Tillerson’s stock, currently at $218 million. His Exxon pension is valued at around $70 million.
The documents reveal that Tillerson has been director of Exxon’s Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas, located in the tax haven of the Bahamas, since 1998. Exxon told the Guardian that it based its business on the small Caribbean nation for the purpose of “simplicity and predictability.”
“It is not done to reduce tax in the country where the company operates,” Exxon said. “Incorporation of a company in the Bahamas does not decrease ExxonMobil’s tax liability in the country where the entity generates its income.”