Risky Business: Companies Targeted By Iran Risking Billions In U.S. Assets And Investments By Failing To Shore Up Defenses

(New York, N.Y.) — In November, Italy-based oil and gas company Eni SpA stated that it had unwittingly purchased a consignment of sanctioned Iranian crude oil in 2019 from Iraq.

Since 1968, Eni has operated across the U.S. in a variety of states and sectors, with significant holdings, investments, as well as academic research and development aspirations. Under the name Eni Petroleum, Eni carries out oil and natural gas exploration and production in Texas, Alaska, and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2019, Eni New Energy US Inc. and Falck Renewables North America Inc. came together to develop renewable energy projects in the U.S. Today, they have a wind farm in Iowa and photovoltaic (PV) plants in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. Eni’s chemical company, Versalis America, has storage deposits in Texas, Louisiana, and Ohio. Through Eni USA R&M Co Inc., Eni produces and sells lubricants in the U.S. with a production plant in Pennsylvania and a deposit site in West Virginia. A publicly-traded company on the NYSE, Eni has also been collaborating with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 2008, with a “view to technological advancement in magnetic confinement fusion energy.” 

Given Eni’s presence across the length and breadth of the United States, this aborted 2019 purchase should serve as a timely reminder to Eni: individual U.S. states do not look kindly on companies doing business with Tehran, with a full two-thirds having in place some form of state-specific anti-Iran sanctions. According to UANI’s state sanctions resource, 32 U.S. states plus Washington, D.C., have their own divestment and/or contracting sanctions in place against Iran.  

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) Research Director Daniel Roth stated, “In the event of a repeat of the 2019 incident, Eni should expect to have to explain to a phalanx of state-based regulatory entities why it did business with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.  Any future dalliance with Iran, intended or not, could prompt inquiries from Texas’ Railroad Commission, Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, industrial regulators in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and so on. It simply isn’t worth it.” 

Eni has faced penalties for violating U.S. sanctions before. In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control fined the company $6,562.79 for engaging in a “trade-related transaction with Iran by facilitating the exportation of goods or services, directly or indirectly, to Iran without an OFAC license.” Roth concluded, “To put itself at risk once again is akin to playing with fire. Multi-national, sprawling companies with extensive operations in multiple U.S. states should recognize that even a hint of business with Iran, inadvertent or not, puts at risk potentially billions of dollars of investment from state treasuries.” 

To read UANI’s resource: Iran Violations and Penalties Tracker, please click here.