Daily briefing: ExxonMobil sues US Treasury, Australia’s upmarket wine, Lucy’s top 10

Oil group in bid to stop fine over allegations of ‘reckless disregard’ for violating Russian sanctions

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ExxonMobil has sued the US Treasury in an attempt to stop a fine for allegations it behaved with “reckless disregard” for violating Russian sanctions while Rex Tillerson, now US secretary of state, was chief executive in 2014.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control fined Exxon the maximum penalty of $2m in what it called an “egregious” case, saying it had failed to disclose breaches of sanctions over deals with Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russia’s state-controlled oil group Rosneft. (FT)

In the news

Schlumberger buys in Russia
The US oil services provider has agreed to buy a 51 per cent stake in Eurasia Drilling Company, in a renewed attempt to take control of the country’s biggest oil and gas exploration company. Siemens is selling its stake in Interautomatika after hearing the Russian company illegally moved gas turbines to Crimea. (FT)

Albania cracks down on pot
In a clean-up as it seeks EU accession talks next year, the government is cracking down on the thousands of small producers who have made Europe’s second-poorest country the biggest open-air producer of cannabis. (FT)

Australia sheds plonk
A single bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage has sold for A$51,750, one of the highest prices ever paid for the country’s wine, amid an industry drive to shed the country’s reputation as a producer of cheap booze. (FT)

Hedge funders prepare huge tax cheques
Steve Cohen, David Einhorn, Daniel Loeb and many other billionaire finance titans are getting ready to cut the US taxman cheques of more than $100m because of the closure of an overseas tax loophole. Total payments from all managers could top $100bn, according to some tax specialists. (WSJ)

Guggenheim Partners spat
A power struggle has broken out between Guggenheim Partners’ two most prominent executives, sapping morale, alarming clients and contributing to the departure of several top managers, according to current and former employees of the $240bn asset manager and investment bank. (FT)

Resistance, recusals and pardons
US attorney-general Jeff Sessions plans to stay in his job despite rebukes from Donald Trump. The US president’s aides are looking for information to get investigators recused or justify firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump-Russia ties, and Mr Trump is also exploring his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the Russia probe. Mr Mueller was “examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates”. (FT, NYT, WaPo, Bloomberg)

Test your knowledge of this week’s news with the FirstFT quizWhich fictional storybook character has been censored in China?

The day ahead

Poland’s controversial court law
The country’s senate could vote as soon as Friday on a supreme court reform bill that opponents said would undermine the rule of law. Tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets on Thursday night to protest against the passing of the bill. (FT)

What we’re reading

I love Lucy
Lucy Kellaway has been writing about work — and corporate claptrap — for 25 years. As she prepares to leave the FT, we asked readers to pick the columns they have enjoyed the most. Here are the top choices. (FT)

In the field with US immigration enforcers
More than 65,000 people have been arrested by the agency since President Trump took office, but in California they are operating in a state hostile to efforts to boost deportations. (NYT)

Generation Macron
A new group of French leaders is pledging to do in business what Emmanuel Macron is seeking in politics: to shake up the old established order and remake the country for the 21st century. (FT)

The real cost of regeneration
Britain’s for-profit council estates: outsourced housing provision means that accountability fades and tenants are “caught in a limbo of impotence”. (Guardian)

The technology trying to prevent you crashing your car
Smartphone use while driving is rampant. “We’re dealing with an addiction,” says Sean Ir, founder of car safety technology group Cellepathy. As road deaths rise, these are the latest software solutions being developed by makers of smartphones and carmakers to deal with distracted drivers. (FT)

Video of the day

Venezuela at boiling point
Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, and chief foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman discuss the humanitarian and constitutional crisis in Venezuela, the prospects for a resolution and why it matters to the rest of the world. (FT)

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