Activists urge SEC to resist oil industry pressure

By jforres

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Washington, DC – International humanitarian organization Oxfam America called on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Mary Schapiro to schedule a meeting now of the SEC to vote on and issue final rules for the oil, gas and mining transparency provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. Known as Section 1504 or “Cardin-Lugar provision,” the law requires companies to disclose payments, such as taxes, they make in every country of operation, including the United States, and for every project for the extraction of oil and minerals.

Even though Congress passed the law in 2010 and set a statutory deadline of April 17th 2011 to issue a final rule, the SEC continues to delay the rule-making process, despite prominent members of Congress, investors and advocacy groups with the Publish What You Pay coalition urging the regulatory agency to resist industry pressure and follow the letter of the law.

“As Americans rush to the post office to mail their tax returns, oil companies are actively lobbying the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to keep their tax payments secret,” said Ian Gary, senior policy manager of Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program. “The hypocrisy of big oil, which loves to trumpet their tax contributions to the US government, has never been more apparent until now.”

Gary added, “The SEC has now been in violation of the law for 364 days. The time for excuses is over.”

To bring attention to SEC’s violation of the law, activists dressed in suits and wearing monkey masks gathered inside an oil barrel in front of the SEC today. They acted out scenes to convey the message that transparency in the oil, gas and mining industry is not monkey business. The action is part of a campaign launched in February that included a demonstration in front of the SEC as well as Chevron building in Houston, Texas, a six-figure ad campaign, and a grass-roots petition targeting oil companies.

“The SEC should not let oil companies push them around,” said Gary. “It’s time for the SEC to bring this saga to an end and follow the clear Congressional mandate.”

While the heavy rule-making workload of the SEC under Dodd-Frank is appreciated, all parties have made their views known to the SEC and it is the responsibility of Chairman Schapiro to bring the final rule to a vote. The deadline is well past and the public is waiting for this vital information. Through SEC action, the United States will be well-positioned to influence the European Commission’s proposal, which would require both private and public companies to disclose the payments they make to foreign governments. The oil industry is actively lobbying in Europe to try to water down the EC proposals.

“The oil industry needs to recognize this transparency wave is inevitable and should stop fighting disclosure rules that benefit companies, investors, energy consumers in industrialized countries and citizens in resource-rich states,” said Gary. “The SEC should stand up to big oil and quickly issue a final rule.”

The final rule must contain no exemptions and should define the project-level reporting obligation included in the law as payments made at the lease or license level in host countries.