Oxfam calls on Exxon, Shell, BP and Chevron to withdraw support from oil industry lawsuit, 'get on transparency train'

By jforres

Share this story:

WASHINGTON, DC –International relief and development organization Oxfam America calls on the CEOs of Shell, Chevron, BP and Exxon today to withdraw support from a lawsuit filed by the American Petroleum Institute (API) aimed at overturning a sunshine law that would help stem corruption in resource-rich countries.

Known as Section 1504 or Cardin-Lugar provision of the Dodd-Frank Act, the law requires oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments they make to countries where they do business. While fighting this law in the US courts, these four companies sit on the global board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – a set of voluntary principles under which governments publicly disclose their revenues from oil, gas and mining projects, and companies make parallel disclosures regarding payments they make to host governments for oil and mineral extraction.

The call to action comes as the EITI global conference kicks off in Sydney where representatives from civil society, oil, gas and mining companies and governments have gathered to discuss increasing transparency in extractive industries. The EITI board is launching a new standard that will require company and project-level reporting in line with Section 1504 as well as the recently agreed EU mandatory disclosure law. In addition to publicly held companies, which are also covered by the US law, the European directives will require large privately-held companies to disclose payments.

“From rural villagers in Africa to investors on Wall Street, the new EITI standard coupled with US and EU mandatory disclosure laws sends a strong signal to companies that the transparency train has left the station,” said Ian Gary, senior policy manager of Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program who is speaking at the global conference.

Momentum for increasing transparency in the extractive industries started over a decade ago with the “Publish What You Pay” campaign followed quickly by the establishment of the EITI. Now, 11 countries have implemented EITI with the United States being the first G8 country to commit to implementation as well as pass a mandatory disclosure law. Mandatory disclosure ensures that citizens in resource rich countries will have access to payment information even if their government has not volunteered to join EITI. Companies can “support” EITI without disclosing payments in every country of operation.

“Transparency in the oil, gas and mining industry is now a global norm,” said Gary. “Oil companies should join citizens in resource-rich countries, investors, and energy consumers in supporting disclosure rather than seeking to turn back the tide through litigation and threaten global progress toward reducing corruption in resource-rich countries.”

While mining companies have not fought implementation of the US rule, the oil industry, through API, is now pursuing its lawsuit in the US District Court after the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the case based on jurisdictional grounds. Oxfam will file a supplemental brief to rebut API’s unsubstantiated arguments.

“Protection of the law is essential for investors to asses a company’s risk and for communities in resource-rich countries to hold governments to account,” said Gary. “This lawsuit is wholly incompatible with the industry’s transparency commitments and support of payment disclosure through such initiatives as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. It is unacceptable that oil companies should receive reputation benefits by supporting a transparency initiative while at the same time fighting a landmark payment disclosure law in US courts. ”

Additional Resources:

- VIDEO: Promote transparency: End the secret payments in oil and mining industries