US energy giant ExxonMobil said on July 20 it has launched a legal challenge to a finding by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that it violated US sanctions against Russia in 2014 when the company followed authoritative and specific guidance from the Obama administration that OFAC retroactively changed a year later.

“OFAC seeks to retroactively enforce a new interpretation of an executive order that is inconsistent with the explicit and unambiguous guidance from the White House and Treasury issued before the relevant conduct and still publicly available today,” said ExxonMobil’s filing in the US District Court.

OFAC’s action is fundamentally unfair and constitutes a denial of due process under the Constitution and violates the Administrative Procedure Act because market participants, including ExxonMobil, did not have notice of the interpretation OFAC now seeks to retroactively enforce, the filing said.

At the center of the dispute are interactions ExxonMobil had with the Russian oil company, Rosneft and with Igor Sechin in his capacity as CEO of Rosneft.

According to a press release by Exxon, OFAC alleges that ExxonMobil violated sanctions when it signed certain documents in May 2014 that were countersigned on behalf of Rosneft by Sechin acting in his official capacity as a Rosneft executive. OFAC has acknowledged that White House and Treasury Department officials repeatedly said sanctions involving Sechin applied only to his personal affairs and not to companies that he managed or represented.

Earlier on July 20, the US Treasury Department said it was fining ExxonMobil $2 million for violating sanctions on Russia in May 2014. The agreements were signed while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was ExxonMobil’s CEO.

The US blacklisted Sechin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as part of its response to Russia’s involvement in Eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

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