Oh Rex, what a tangled, convoluted web you weave. You have so many investments that you cannot possibly operate without a conflict of interest, if you become Secretary of State. You will be a walking disaster zone waiting to happen.
Let’s start with Exxon, which has been your life for decades. Decoupling you from the company is not going to be easy. To avoid any conflicts of interest, Exxon disclosed last week that you will cash out your shares and stock. The value of stock that you own is reported to be between $180 million and $240 million.
But cashing out will not rid Rex of the conflicts of interest. As usual with these things, the devil is in the detail. According to Tillerson’s “Ethics Undertakings”, Rex has agreed to “divest my stock in ExxonMobil within 90 days of my confirmation.”
Before we worry that this gives Tillerson a 3-month period in which to lobby like mad for Exxon and make a nice tidy profit, he has agreed to “not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that to my knowledge has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests of ExxonMobil until I have divested this stock, unless I first obtain a written waiver, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 208(b)(l), or qualify for a regulatory exemption, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 208(b)(2).”
Now I do not know who he might get a waiver from or how often that happens, but immediately it throws up all sorts of problems and issues.
What happens if Trump asks Tillerson to meet Putin within the first 90 days or to work on getting sanctions against Russia lifted? Are you seriously telling me that Tillerson won’t do any of this, just in case Exxon benefits. Of course not. So he could have a 90-day window in which to make seriously more money than the huge amount of money he is already set to earn.
Rex may be a multi-millionaire and doesn’t need any more money, but what this does is bring up a serious conflict of interest. Even after the 90 days are over, there are further complications:
Rex’s form states: “For a period of one year after my resignation from ExxonMobil, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I know that ExxonMobil is a party or represents a party, unless I am first authorized to participate, pursuant_ to 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502(d).”
So we ask the same question. Does this mean he won’t meet Putin for a year, say, or any other Government where Exxon has an interest? No of course not. Otherwise Rex won’t be meeting many heads of state.
There is a further complication too.
According to Bloomberg: “Federal ethics rules say that when companies change their policies to award former employees a payment of $10,000 or more, that recusal period must double to two years. For Tillerson, that could significantly curtail his work as the nation’s top diplomat.”
So that could be two years – potentially half his term as Secretary of State – that the Exxon shadow haunts Rex. And even after then, will he be putting American interests over those from Exxon? Who knows.
It gets worse.
Tillerson also has other stocks and shares, including investing in his old rivals. His investment portfolio includes shares in the BG Group, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total. He also invests in other oil companies. But that is just the oil industry.
His portfolio includes stock in tech companies, pharmaceutical, banks, food and drink giants, as well as many others. His disclosure form with the federal Office of Government Ethics goes on for 38 pages. Every single entry – and there are hundreds of them – is a potential conflict of interest.
Tillerson says he will divest from 156 different entities within 90 days too. Some conflicts will be avoided, but many will not.
He is not alone.
As Bloomberg points out: “Billionaire Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick for Commerce secretary, led investments in 178 companies while running his private-equity firm — and has been tapped to lead an agency that helps oversee compliance with trade laws and agreements. Steven Mnuchin, who’s up for Treasury secretary, is a former partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc who held shares in CIT Group Inc. worth more than $100 million when he resigned from the company’s board on Dec. 2.”
Bloomberg continues: “Andrew Puzder, tapped to head the Labor Department, has been since 2000 chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., which operates and franchises fast food restaurants at 3,300 sites in 42 states and 28 countries. The restaurants’ costs are tied to wage-and-hour laws that Puzder’s department would oversee.”
This is a cabinet of conflicts of interests. If you, like many people are concerned about this, the time to do something is now. Rex’s nomination hearing is tomorrow.
For more on the campaign to #RejectRex go here.