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Ukrainian American Bar Association

Bohdan Shandor: Letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Nomination of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State

16 Jan 2017 8:37 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

Dear Senators

As a former General Counsel at a Fortune 100 Company with worldwide operations; and with extensive experience in Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet Union, I urge you to vote NO on the nomination of Mr. Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, for the following reasons:

 1. Lack of Knowledge-Mr. Tillerson’s answers during the recent hearings exhibit a remarkable lack of knowledge re: world affairs and what appeared to be a posturing of a hard line position with regard to Russia, which disappeared upon closer inquiry by Committee Members. If Mr. Tillerson’s job description was simply to be the deliverer of bad news to Mr. Putin, I might be prepared to endorse his nomination; for his relationship with Vladimir Putin would be valuable in that regard. However, as Secretary of State, his duties will be to advise the President in formulating and implementing United States foreign policy. On this score he fails miserably. His answers of having to “get the facts,” “investigate” and “make inquiry” were intended to avoid answering the difficult questions. Frankly, we should expect more from a nominee for Secretary of State.

 2. No Recollection on Key Issues- His several responses of not recalling or not knowing certain key facts, including whether Exxon conducted business in Iran, Sudan and Syria are simply not credible and, frankly, disingenuous. How can a CEO not recall whether Exxon did business in Iran; especially, since to do so would have been a violation of US and UN sanctions prohibiting the conduct of business with Iran? One can only surmise why “no recollection” of  this basic fact might be a convenient answer for the former CEO of Exxon.

 3. Diplomacy is Not Business as Usual- Furthermore, Mr. Tillerson’s business focus does not assist him in carrying out the duties of Secretary of State but rather, in my opinion, will cloud his moral judgment and ethical conscience as it relates to America’s values as America, e.g., human rights. In watching his testimony from start to finish, I was reminded of the diamond buyers of "Blood Diamonds" from Africa. They do not care who or where the source of the diamonds is, so long as they can obtain them at a low price. In his own words, he said sanctions are not always fair to business, as though there is or should be a moral balancing in dollars and cents. I imagine Blood Diamond buyers feel the same way. There is no moral clarity on his part. If you have to investigate or do fact finding to find your moral compass- you don’t have one!

 4. No Commitment to Sanctions- Mr. Tillerson hemmed and hawed to avoid committing to continued sanctions against Russia relying upon the need for further review. While he called for defensive weapons to be provided to Ukraine, he sounded  as though the forcible occupation of Crimea was a fait accompli.

 5. Lack of Education and Exposure- I do not believe Mr. Tillerson has the education, knowledge or experience to be Secretary of State (and, 4th in the line of succession to President). His education is solely as an engineer and geologist. His job with the same company, over the course of his advancement, was to find oil; which does not adequately prepare him for diplomacy or foreign policy. During his hearings, he even referred to his background as an engineer to justify his lack of knowledge on a particular question. The fact that he was with the same company for 40+ years underscores an absence of exposure to other companies, organizations, practices and ways of doing things in the broader context of business, government, law, foreign affairs and diplomacy.

 6. Explanation of Exxon’s Success Under FCPA- As a former General Counsel of a  company that sought to do business in Russia, I can speak personally to the demands that are made for payoffs from Russian government officials at every level. The company I was with refused to comply with these requests and, not surprisingly, operated  no businesses in Russia. We were allowed to sell our products into Russia but undertook no manufacturing or production (separately, the company had 147 production plants in 110 countries). I was disheartened that no one on the Committee asked Mr. Tillerson how Exxon was able to maneuver through the vast corruption in Russia, so as not to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; and, what systems and people were in place at Exxon to assure compliance with the FCPA.

 For these reasons, I respectfully urge you to vote "NO" in Committee and not allow the nomination of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State to be referred to the full United States Senate for confirmation.

Bohdan D. Shandor, Esq. 
Former President and Governor of the UABA

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