Lawsuit seeking to overturn oil transparency law moves forward

By jforres

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Washington DC – International relief and development organization Oxfam America expressed disappointment that the American Petroleum Institute (API), the US Chamber of Commerce and two trade groups, representing companies such as BP, Exxon, Chevron and Shell, are following through with a lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The oil industry aims to overturn a US sunshine law that requires oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments they make to the United States and foreign governments for the extraction of oil and minerals.

Despite receiving a fair hearing in the SEC’s two-year rule-making process and before Congress passed the law, the oil industry is trying to avoid compliance with the law which requires disclosures by 2014. On Monday, the plaintiffs submitted their formal petitioner’s brief in the first salvo of the legal proceedings in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Their lawsuit was initially filed in October.

In response, Ian Gary, senior policy manager with Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program, issued the following statement.

“The global tide is moving toward more openness in the extractive sector, not less. Oil companies should side with investors and citizens, not kleptocrats,” said Gary. "If payment disclosures truly hurt bottom lines as they claim, then leading companies like Statoil and Talisman Energy would not already be disclosing this type of information. Any well-run company should already collect and account for this information and if systems aren't in place for tracking payments, investors need to ask why.

“The European Union is close to finalizing a similar requirement and there is concrete movement in Canada. The companies behind the API suit are fighting a losing battle,” said Gary. “As a party to the case, Oxfam will continue fighting to protect the law to ensure that the court isn’t just hearing from the oil companies as they try a last ditch effort to use the courts to hide payments from public view.”