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New SEC rule to shed light on oil and mining money

By Oxfam
Azubuike Samson is a student at this school in the Niger Delta, an area that produces most of the oil in Nigeria but is one of the most impoverished regions of the country. New requirements for disclosure of payments by oil companies to the government may help citizens in Nigeria devote more resources to education. Photo: George Osodi / Panos for Oxfam America.

Oxfam welcomes news of measures to increase transparency, and help countries track money.

A rule released by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will now require oil and mining companies publicly traded on US stock exchanges to disclose payments to the US and foreign governments. These disclosures will help citizens track money from natural resources, and help to make visible the ways funds are used for public goods like schools and hospitals.

“This is a victory for investors, and for citizens in resource rich countries around the world who wish to follow the money their governments receive from oil and mining companies,” says Ian Gary, a policy director at Oxfam America.

The rules will finally enact Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2010.

Oxfam estimates that between 2010 and 2015 the oil industry should have paid oil-producing countries $1.5 trillion. With limited means to track such payments, citizens in these countries can’t tell what payments their governments received nor can they see where the money is spent.

By finalizing these rules, the US joins 30 countries, including members of the European Union as well as the UK, Canada and Norway, that will require oil, gas, and mining company disclosure of payments to governments.

The SEC’s deadline to issue the rules this month was imposed by a US District Court order resulting from a suit brought by Oxfam against the SEC.

“Oxfam has been campaigning for this law and its implementation for almost a decade,” Gary. “While we’re still reviewing the details, we look forward to working with our partners to put the information generated by this crucial rule to work all over the world.”

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