Washington, DC – International humanitarian organization Oxfam America has launched a new campaign urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to resist pressure from oil companies lobbying to water down a new law that will help stem corruption in resource-rich countries.
Known as Section 1504 or the “Cardin-Lugar” provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the law requires oil, gas and mining companies to disclose the payments they make to host governments for the exploration and extraction of oil and minerals. However, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and its oil company members are fighting back, threatening to sue the SEC, the regulatory agency responsible for issuing final rules, unless it withdraws its proposal and starts from scratch.
“The SEC has a strict mandate from Congress to follow the letter of the law and should not cave in to those who don’t want to,” said Ian Gary, senior policy manager of Oxfam America’s oil, gas and mining program. ”Our campaign aims to send a strong message that we’re watching, and ready to fight back if the regulatory agency issues weak final rules.”
The campaign, which includes a number of activities, will kick off on Friday in Washington, DC in front of the SEC, where activists will depict the oil and gas industry’s wooing of the regulatory agency. Representing SEC commissioners and oil company executives, the activists will act out a number of scenes, including pillow fights, champagne toasts and snuggling to convey the message that they may be getting in bed together to undermine the law.
The activists will then head to Houston, Texas on February 16th to gather in front of the Chevron Building downtown. Dressed as the three wise monkeys embodying the principle “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” the action will shine a light on the yawning gap between the transparency rhetoric of the industry and the reality of their actions, which has never been more apparent until now.
“The oil and gas industry loves to trumpet their support of international transparency initiatives and their tax contributions to the US government, but when a new law requires them to tell the public exactly how much gets paid to whom around the world, they bring out the lobbyists and lawyers,” said Gary.
To coincide with these activities, Oxfam America, Global Witness and a number of organizations are supporting a six-figure advertising campaign calling on the oil industry to stop fighting transparency. The ads will begin running February 13th online in the Washington Post, Politico, Huffington Post and The Hill and in print in the Wall Street Journal.
While the oil industry continues fighting transparency, some companies, such as Talisman Energy, Statoil, AngloGold Ashanti and Newmont Mining, are embracing it. They already disclose payments in every country of operation and in some cases they volunteer this information at a project level. Some companies have complained that local laws might prevent them from disclosing this information, but companies have been unable to show the SEC a single example proving their argument.
In fact, investors representing more than $1.2 trillion in assets under management welcomed the law and draft rules the SEC issued in December 2010. Furthermore, outside the United States, the transparency movement continues to grow rapidly with the European Commission introducing a legislative proposal in October 2011. The legislative directive requires similar disclosures by oil, gas and mining companies. The European Parliament and Commission are likely to issue a final law later this year. Oil companies are also actively lobbying in Brussels to weaken the proposed legislation.
“It’s time to blow the whistle on the industry’s transparent hypocrisy,” said Gary. “For more than 1.5 billion people living on less than two dollars a day in resource-rich countries, there’s no time left to wait.”