Exxon Deploys Sanction Watchers

Exxon Deploys Sanction WatchersExxon Deploys Sanction Watchers

Exxon Mobil Corp. is ramping up efforts to track US government work on Iranian sanctions that have locked out American oil companies from the Middle Eastern nation for more than three decades, Bloomberg reported.

Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded crude producer by market value, hired the lobbying firm founded by former Senator Don Nickles, an Oklahoma Republican, to monitor activity related to Iranian sanctions, according to federal disclosure documents. This is the first time since 2010 that the Irving, Texas-based oil company enlisted outside lobbyists to discuss Iran. Exxon said the activities Nickles was hired to carry out, disclosed in an April 16 federal “Lobbying Report” filing, fall short of lobbying. “We are not lobbying on Iran sanctions,” Alan Jeffers, an Exxon spokesman, said, adding: “We are monitoring activities related to Iran in the US government.”

In a statement, Nickles said his firm has represented Exxon for a decade, and would review their lobbying disclosure form to be sure it accurately describes the work they’re doing related to Iran. “We are not influencing or advocating in any way on Iran sanctions; our work with regard to Iran has involved only monitoring legislative activity in the US Congress dealing with that sanctions regime.”

Western energy companies are eager to tap Iranian fields that are among the biggest and cheapest to exploit in the world, said Morningstar Inc.’s Allen Good. Sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear program have kept the country largely off-limits to American firms. Iran is home to the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves and second-biggest cache of natural gas. Iran and the US face a self-imposed deadline of June 30 to reach a final nuclear agreement that allows the gradual lifting of sanctions.

A deal could open the doors to billions of dollars in investments by foreign oil companies.