On July 2nd, 2013, the US Federal District Court in Washington, DC, issued a decision that vacates the rules the Securities and Exchange Commission wrote to implement the payment transparency provisions in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2010. This is a disappointing result for the campaign for more and better transparency of payments by oil, gas, and mining companies to governments. However the Dodd-Frank law is still in effect and nothing in the decision says the SEC may not require public reporting of payments – it just says that the SEC needs to use its discretion and provide a fuller analysis of its decisions.
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), one of the authors of the transparency provisions in Dodd-Frank, released this statement: “The U.S. has been at the forefront of the transparency fight and this decision will delay implementation of vital transparency rules that would shine much needed sunlight on information designed to protect investors and promote U.S. energy security. Congress was clear in the letter and the spirit of the law that this information should be in the public domain.”
Ian Gary, Oxfam’s senior policy manager, says oil companies behind the law suit will still have to comply with the law: “The fight to lift the veil of secrecy on billions of dollars is not over, and we are considering all of our legal options – including appeal of this decision – in order to ensure that investors and citizens have access to the information required by this groundbreaking provision. Many companies that are fighting the law here will now also have to disclose payments as a result of a new European law passed earlier this month. ”
Right now international oil companies are paying billions to governments, and no one can say where the money goes. In the Unites States, oil companies are suing the US government in a last-ditch effort to block a provision in a 2010 law that forces them to publicly disclose these payments. At the same time, some of the same companies go to international meetings to discuss more financial transparency, appearing to support progressive policies publicly while at the same time undermining the same transparency principles in court.
It’s time for big oil companies to stop the war on transparency: Citizens of the most impoverished, yet resource-rich countries have a right to know where their national wealth is going, and public information about payments from companies will help them track this money.
There are now more than 1.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day in poor countries that are nevertheless rich in natural resources, and they want to know: Where does the money go? To help answer this question, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (passed with help from Oxfam supporters) included a groundbreaking provision which requires that all oil, gas, and mining companies registered under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) be transparent about payments made to governments around the world. Oil and gas companies have been fighting implementation of the law and have filed a lawsuit to block the SEC’s new rules implementing Dodd-Frank so they can keep their payment information secret.
The transparency requirements in Dodd-Frank –as well as a new law about to be approved in Europe --represent a new global standard that will help give citizens in countries producing oil, gas, and minerals information they can use to demand accountability from their own governments. It will shine a light on billions in payments by many of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, and 8 of the 10 ten largest mining companies in the world.
We need your help: Join us in calling on oil companies to respect the will of Congress and the American people: Don't stand in the way of strong rules that will promote transparency and democracy over secrecy and corruption.