Chevron shareholders cast their votes for transparency

By jlee

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WASHINGTON, DC – According to preliminary results from yesterday’s Chevron annual meeting in Houston, shareholders representing approximately 160 million shares – worth more than $10 billion – voted in favor of a shareholder proposal calling for a transparent payment disclosure policy, said international humanitarian organization Oxfam America. 

“With this level of shareholder support, Chevron can no longer ignore the call for transparency,” said Ian Gary, senior policy manager for extractive industries at Oxfam America, who attended the shareholder meeting. “We know oil revenues are too often squandered through corruption, internal conflict, and weak governance. This is an opportunity for Chevron to promote the rights of citizens by providing them with vital information about revenues coming into their countries. Transparency should not be a question for Chevron, it is central to accountable practice in the vulnerable countries where it operates.” 

The shareholder proposal was filed in December 2009 by Oxfam America and five institutions with Chevron holdings. Prior to the vote yesterday, shareholders and their proxies spoke in favor of this proposal to help reduce instability and insecurity in oil-rich countries through a transparent and accountable payment disclosure policy in all countries where Chevron operates. Two other global oil companies, Statoil of Norway and Talisman Energy of Canada, already disclose this information to the public.

 During his remarks, Mam Sambath, chairman of Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency, said: “Secrecy encourages conflict. In Cambodia, over the past decades, there have been numerous conflicts between communities and companies, and these have led to losses for both sides. We don’t want this to happen because we want Chevron to stay, and this is your opportunity to take leadership in Cambodia and help us ensure that your operations in Cambodia will be successful and beneficial to both your company and Cambodians.”

In 2008, Chevron paid more than $40 billion in taxes to governments around the world. Managed properly, these revenues can contribute to economic prosperity and stability in countries where Chevron and other companies operate. However, history has shown that oil company payments to governments as well as government receipts are often kept secret, leading to embezzlement, corruption, and revenue misappropriation, which, in many cases, has prevented oil revenues from contributing to economic development. 

In his address to shareholders, Ian Gary said: “Disclosing payments would complement Chevron’s existing efforts in initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. EITI has serious limitations. It is voluntary and only works where governments have the political will be transparent…Chevron works in many countries run by governments suspected of corruption and worse. Unfair or not, undisclosed payments raise popular suspicion regarding Chevron’s role in maintaining a system of financial secrecy. Ensuring that payments are transparent puts Chevron in a leadership position and turns the spotlight back on host governments.” 

With the results of yesterday’s vote, Oxfam America has the right to re-file this shareholder proposal with Chevron next year. Oxfam America will continue to call on Chevron and its shareholders to support disclosure of all payments to host governments.