Type to search

Can Exxon CEO Turn From Corporate To National Interest As Secretary Of State?

Business Campaign 2016 Money Politics Top News White House

Can Exxon CEO Turn From Corporate To National Interest As Secretary Of State?

ExxonMobil CEO Tillerman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The central question facing Exxon Mobile Corp. chief executive Rex Tillerson if he becomes U.S. secretary of state is whether a life-long oil man with close ties to Russia can pivot from advancing corporate interests to serving the national interest.

Tillerson, 64, got his start as a production engineer at Exxon in 1975 and has worked there ever since, running business units in Yemen, Thailand and Russia before being named chief executive in 2006. He was expected to retire next year.

Critics suggested that if President-elect Donald Trump were to choose Tillerson – as a source familiar with the situation said he was expected to do – it would continue a trend of selecting some aides who may favor a softer line toward Moscow.

Among these is Trump’s pick for national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who raised eyebrows when he sat beside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow banquet last year and who has argued that the United States and Russia should collaborate to end Syria’s civil war and to defeat Islamic State militants.

Some former officials said it was an open question whether Tillerson could make the transition from running Exxon, a vast company that explores for oil and gas on six continents, to the even greater complexity of being secretary of state.

“Negotiating a real estate deal or an oil contract with Saudi Arabia is not the same thing,” said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department Middle East specialist now at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington.

“It’s not a complicated summit where you are trying to reconcile historical woundings, religious identities, sectarian tensions.”

“I’m not arguing that he can’t make this conversion. I just don’t think we know.”


Many U.S. officials are worried by Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior. It annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and is accused of interfering in U.S. domestic politics.

U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, and not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, a senior U.S. official said.

In his role at Exxon Tillerson maintained close ties with Putin and opposed U.S. sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Crimea.

Daniel Yergin, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power,” said Russia represented a relatively small portion of Exxon’s overall operations and played down its significance.

“It was a business relationship,” Yergin said.

“The whole Russian thing is so much front and center now so it’s inevitable that those questions be asked but, obviously, if you are a major oil company, you want to go to where your resources (are). You have to replace your reserves,” he added.

“If he becomes secretary of state, the interests he will pursue will be U.S. interests. This is an Eagle Scout kind of guy. He was president of the Boy Scouts,” he said. “He is a straight arrow. If that’s his mission, that’s what he’ll do.”

In an interview to be aired on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump praised Tillerson as “much more than a business executive.”

“He’s a world class player,” Trump said. “To me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players, and he knows them well.”

However, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a senior Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that would weigh Tillerson’s nomination, was unsparing in his criticism of the possible appointment.

“Reports that Rex Tillerson could be nominated to be our nation’s top diplomat (are) alarming and absurd,” he said. “With Rex Tillerson as our secretary of state the Trump administration would be guaranteeing Russia has a willing accomplice in the president’s cabinet guiding our nation’s foreign policy.”


Should Tillerson be nominated, climate change could be another controversial issue.

Exxon is under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office for allegedly misleading investors, regulators and the public on what it knew about global warming.

However, if chosen, Tillerson would be one of the few people selected for major roles in the Trump administration to believe that human activity causes climate change.

After Trump’s election, Exxon came out in support of the Paris Climate Agreement. It has also advocated for a carbon tax and internally factors in a theoretical price on carbon as it weights manufacturing and exploration costs of projects.

Some environmental groups are alarmed at the prospect of Exxon’s CEO as the country’s top diplomat.

“Donald Trump appears intent to undo a century of environmental and social progress and return America to the age of robber barons and corporate trusts,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law.

“Who better to turn to than Exxon, the granddaddy of them all?”

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, John Walcott; and Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Robert Birsel)

IMAGE: ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the 26th World Gas Conference in Paris, France, June 2, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier



  1. dbtheonly December 12, 2016

    Right now I’m happy that Tillerson is rational. One doesn’t become head of Exxon by being a bomb thrower, screaming talking head, or political toady.

    This coulda been much worse.

    1. dpaano December 12, 2016

      You think?

      1. dbtheonly December 12, 2016

        Oh yes, this could have been much worse.

        Rudi Giuliani
        Tom Tancredo
        Sean Hannity.

        1. dpaano December 13, 2016

          Personally, I think Giuliani dropped out of the SofS running because he was promised a seat on the Supreme Court, which is even WORSE because we’d be stuck with him forever!

          1. dbtheonly December 13, 2016

            True, but see my reply to jm just above.

            “It could be worse.”, is my second favorite quote from Han Solo.

    2. jmprint December 13, 2016

      But they do become filthy rich by doing favors for foreign companies.

      1. dbtheonly December 13, 2016

        I’m afraid you’re in for four years of me trying to find the silver lining in every cloud.

        No, CEO become filthy rich by making their corporations gobs of money. Win-win situations.

        If Tillerson can continue to find win-win situations, I’ll be happy, until then I’ll be happy it wasn’t any worse.

        1. jmprint December 13, 2016

          You are right, what could possibly go wrong with doing away with EPA. Our country is already monopolized by the filthy rich, what could go wrong with them running the white house. Besides why did God create those that couldn’t become filthy rich anyway. dangit! it’s not their fault.

          1. dbtheonly December 13, 2016

            The Secretary of State is responsible for doing away with the EPA? Zounds!

          2. jmprint December 13, 2016

            That would be Perry’s job, put Tillerson is a great advocate of disassembling EPA and with Perry in there it will happen. Trump’s Administration is all about making the US the largest export of oil no matter at what expense to prove he can create jobs, and unfortunately that doesn’t benefit the average joe.

      2. dpaano December 13, 2016

        And, someone who sits at the right hand of Putin is pretty scary to me….I certainly don’t want him to be in a position to allow Russia to take over this country and make Trump their puppet!

  2. Mama Bear December 12, 2016

    I am waiting for T-rump to appoint a tobacco executive to be Surgeon General.

  3. FT66 December 12, 2016

    We have seen many Secretaries of State in the past the work they did. We have seen their interest in their work was based in the interest of the entire country, and not for the personal interest especially for the boss (here the President). The work this man Tillerson was doing and the ties he had with countries like Russia (which is now accused of intereferring in the 2016 election), doesn’t make him suit at all to be assigned this very important job.

  4. itsfun December 12, 2016

    President-elect Trump said he will drain the swamp and this is a example of that. He is selecting people with actual real world experience instead of career politicians that only have experience in government. The new Treasury director and SOS are great examples of this. The new SOS has experience dealing with leaders from all over the world, not just Russia as some want you to believe. The economy needs fixing and who better than people that have actually been successful and have been there and done it?

    1. jmprint December 12, 2016

      Do you remember in the mid 2000 when gas prices were so high that it made the economy tank, and the oil companies were raking in 6000% profit while you and I paid upwards of $4.00 per gallon. The oil tycoons didn’t return tax payer subsidies, no they took them and ran, and left us a crumbling economy. What makes you think Tillerson has any concern for you now.

      What is happening right know with Trumps picks is that he is going fully rogue on oil industry to create jobs. Those jobs will be good paying jobs for some, but the trade on that is that, the price of gas will go up. And our water system and buildings will be sacrificed, along with our health as the oil industry pumps poisonous gasses underground but float into our atmosphere that we breath every day. The oil industry and the investors will make money, but where does that leave the coal miners, and the rest of the nation, worse than we were under Obama’s administration. So in essence the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. yeah trumpf

      1. itsfun December 12, 2016

        Drain the swamp means getting people in charge who have actually been there and done it. Not idiots like John Kerry who is just another government lacky that only does what others have done and failed in before him. Same for Hillary, all she has ever done is be corrupt and know how to get away with it.

        1. jmprint December 13, 2016

          Another prime example of people changing what Trump says and means to accommodate their thought of what Trump meant. To Trumps supporters draining the swamp was to get rid of Wall Street and yet he has many appointments by ex Goldman Sach employees. The swamp is now a cesspool. Thanks itsfun, for taking part in the cesspool rise.

          1. dpaano December 13, 2016

            Isn’t it hilarious how the Trump followers and trolls keep making inane excuses for their leader? Will they EVER see the truth behind all his lies and cons?

          2. jmprint December 13, 2016

            Nope, that’s why we have to keep reminding them of the truth, because if we let them continue saying lies, that becomes their truth.

          3. itsfun December 13, 2016

            The swamp draining is career politicians, lobbyists, and such. Not bringing in new blood that has actually been there and done it. Draining the swamp is getting rid of academics and hiring people that have had real success in the real world.

          4. jmprint December 13, 2016

            ANd how many career politician has he got ridden off? And lobbyists all they have to do is re-register and they are on board. Getting rid of academics how?

          5. itsfun December 14, 2016

            He is draining the swamp by NOT hiring career politicians for jobs like SOS, Treasury, etc. He is bringing in successful people in the same fields. He is not bringing in people that have never negotiated deals. He is bringing in people that have the real world experience. not the people with just political and academic backgrounds. That is one of the ways he is draining the swamp. He gets rid of career politicians and academics by not hiring them.

      2. dpaano December 12, 2016

        And, if the environmental regulations for coal mining disappear, and the coal miners start getting sick again from all the coal dust they’ll be inhaling, and if they no longer have Obamacare to help them…..where will they end up? So much for Trump’s putting them back to work….back in coal mines with little or no regulations for environmental safety!

  5. Alicia December 13, 2016

    WHen you are a CEO and you get fired, you aren’t held accountable for your actions, in fact you are rewards with a nice millions of dollar get out here bonus. So needless to say Trumps newly form regime won;t be held accountable for the destruction they are about to unleash.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.