(TFC) – In a glaring conflict of interest, Rex Tillerson, current U.S. Secretary of State and former Exxon CEO, was present in Saudi Arabia for the signing of a major agreement between Exxon and the state-owned Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC). Thanks to Exxon’s own press release, we know the Exxon CEO, Darren Woods, was in Saudi Arabia last week for the annual Saudi-US CEO Forum in Riyadh. At the forum, Exxon and SABIC signed an agreement to “conduct a detailed study of the proposed Gulf Coast Growth Ventures project in Texas and begin planning for front-end engineering and design work.” The venture is a joint project and proposed co-ownership of a $10 billion petrochemical complex near Corpus Christi, Texas. Pictures found on Twitter by DeSmog show that Exxon CEO Woods went over to a Saudi palace for an agreement signing ceremony that was attended by Woods, Tillerson, Trump, Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and the SABIC CEO.
After a forty-one year career at Exxon Mobil, justifiable concerns exist regarding Tillerson’s ability to remain objective on issues affecting the oil industry and in particular Exxon. At his confirmation hearing, Tillerson addressed potential conflicts of interest by pledging to remove himself from any matters involving Exxon for a period of one year after his resignation as CEO. Additionally, Tillerson divested himself financially from Exxon. While Tillerson received praise for divesting himself of Exxon financial ties, the non-profit and government watchdog group Public Citizen found a discrepancy in the documents Tillerson filed with the SEC. According to Public Citizen:
“The filling contains two agreements, one between Exxon and Tillerson, and one between Exxon and Northern Trust Company, which will serve as the trustee. The contract between Exxon and Tillerson says the CEO will forfeit all remaining assets in the trust if he works for the oil and gas industry in the next 10 years. But Exxon’s agreement with the trustee says that Tillerson forfeits the trust assets if he engages in “competitive” employment in the oil and gas industry – in other words, employment with any company other than Exxon.”
Now thanks to Desmog breaking the story about Tillerson’s presence at the Exxon-SABIC signing we know Tillerson’s ability to fully divest himself from Exxon clearly remains an issue of public concern. Tillerson spent his ten years as Exxon CEO advocating pro-oil industry measures around the world and developing strong relationships based on promotion of the oil industry. Now, as the President’s chief foreign affairs adviser it’s hard to perceive how U.S. foreign interests will not be biased towards pro-oil positions. Tillerson’s presence at the Exxon-SABIC agreement ceremony certainly seems to suggest this.