Shareholders call for transparency and accountability at Chevron annual meeting

By jlee

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WASHINGTON, DC – As Chevron investors gather in Houston today for the oil company’s annual shareholder meeting, international humanitarian organization Oxfam America urges investors to support a call for Chevron to help reduce instability and insecurity in oil-rich countries by committing to a transparent and accountable payment disclosure policy.

In December of last year, Oxfam America and a number of fellow shareholders filed a resolution with Chevron calling for a comprehensive policy of publicly disclosing all payments made to governments of countries where the company operates. The resolution, which will be up for vote at the meeting today, aims to promote the rights of citizens in oil-rich countries by providing them with vital information about revenues coming into their countries.

“With this resolution, many shareholders have spoke and Chevron should listen. Oil revenues are too often squandered through corruption, internal conflict, and weak governance in resource-rich countries,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “Chevron has an opportunity to stop sitting idly by while this happens under a veil of secrecy. By publicly disclosing all payments, these governments can be held accountable for using revenues for economic development and poverty reduction.”

In 2008, Chevron paid more than $40 billion in taxes to governments around the world. Managed properly, oil 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 these countries.

In Angola, a country where Chevron operates, more than $4 billion in state oil revenues disappeared from government coffers between 1997 and 2002, an amount roughly equal to the entire sum the government spent on social programs in the same period. New areas of Chevron exploration in countries like Cambodia are threatened with the same fate if the company does not adopt a payment disclosure policy.

“Cambodians have witnessed how the misuse of oil revenues tore apart countries like Angola and Nigeria. On the verge of oil boom in Cambodia, we urge the Cambodian government to prepare for the oil industry by committing to accountable, transparent policies and regulations for successful management of this sector,” said Solinn Lim, Regional Program Coordinator for Extractive Industries at Oxfam America in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “We urge Chevron to publish what they pay for our natural resources, so that their corporate practice will help support an open and sustainable industry in Cambodia.”

As Chevron convenes their meeting of shareholders, the US Congress is also recognizing the importance of revenue transparency in the oil, gas, and mining industries. A bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Energy Security through Transparency Act, which would legally require all oil, gas, and mining companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to disclose payments made to host governments. This includes European companies, such as Shell and BP, as well as many companies in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil. The bill was introduced in September of 2009, and is expected to be considered for a vote in 2010.

“Congress has started to recognize the value of transparency in this sector, and we need industry leaders like Chevron to commit to a payment disclosure policy that would not only protect company investments and help stabilize energy prices for consumers, but also foster accountability in nations were secrecy has undermined development, democracy, and human rights for decades,” said Offenheiser.