By the numbers: giving stories the attention they deserve

What are the oil companies up to? Photo by Christiane Badgley

By the Numbers – the fight for oil and mining company transparency,” is a must-read item from Oxfam America’s Politics of Poverty blog (the post is also pasted below).

Some stories don’t get the attention they deserve. Important issues that are hard to translate into snappy news items are more often than not overlooked in today’s shallow “news” environment.

Remember the U.S. financial reform laws passed back in 2010? You know, the Dodd-Frank Act intended to prevent another financial meltdown? Well, one part of that reform package that hardly got any mainstream news attention was Section 1504, one of several “specialized corporate disclosure” provisions in Dodd-Frank. This item, also known as the Cardin-Lugar provision, was signed into law by President Obama in July 2010.

As the transparency advocacy organization, Publish What You Pay, explains, “The first of its kind, this law requires oil, gas and mining companies registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to publish their payments to the U.S. federal government and foreign governments as part of their annual reports to the SEC.”

The Publish What You Pay website also provides details on what this law will do and why it matters. For years civil society organizations have been pushing for increased transparency in the extractive industries. Transparency is seen as one tool for fighting corruption and the “resource curse.”  Transparency can be an important step towards accountability and change.

Prior to the passage of the Cardin-Lugar law, transparency initiatives like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) were voluntary. Now, if this law is enforced, disclosure on the company side will be mandatory.

(And, by the way, this law also applies to the U.S., which has not implemented the EITI.)

Sounds good, right? Who could oppose common sense legislation like this?

The oil companies.

The law, which should come into effect sometime between now and June 2012 has a review period and the oil majors are putting intense pressure on the SEC to water down this law to the point of uselessness.

Oxfam America, along with Publish What You Pay, was part of the coalition of organizations that campaigned in favor of the Cardin-Lugar provision. The struggle now is to keep this law intact.

This law is just part of the larger issue of corporate influence on U.S. politics. If you care about transparency this is important. If you care about the excessive influence of oil companies — and corporations in general — on U.S. policy this is important. If you would like to see companies being held accountable for how they conduct themselves outside the U.S. this is important.

Here’s the blog post from Oxfam:

By the Numbers – the fight for oil and mining company transparency

1504 Section in Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act requiring companies to disclose taxes, royalties, and other payments made to the US and foreign governments
1.5 billion People living on less than $2 a day in “resource-rich” countries

$30 million Value of Malibu mansion owned by Teodoro Nguema Obiang, son of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea’s dictator

1 Number of white crystal-covered ‘Bad Tour’ gloves in Teodoro’s Michael Jackson memorabilia collection valued at $3 million (See “U.S. vs. One Crystal-Covered ‘Bad Tour’ Glove” court filing.)

270 Days after enactment that Congress required the SEC to issue a final rule (regulation) to implement the law

559 Days since Dodd-Frank enacted into law by President Obama

289 Days that the SEC has been in violation of the law

13 Months after Dodd-Frank that the European Commission issued a legislative proposal that would place a similar requirement on oil and mining companies

0 Host country laws oil companies have been able to cite that would prohibit disclosure of payment information as required by Dodd-Frank

3 Commissioners eligible to vote on the final rule (Chairwoman Schapiro and Commissioner Paredes are recused because of conflicts of interest.)

$50 million Estimated amount Exxon says that it would cost to comply with law, even though it provides no backing data for the estimate and presumably already collects and tracks payment information

$41 billion Exxon’s 2011 profits—a 35% increase over 2010

$100,000 Cost Barrick Gold, world’s largest gold producer, says it would cost them to comply

$1.2 trillion Approximate combined assets under management of investors who have told SEC to issue a strong final rule

3 Companies and industry associations (Shell, Exxon and API) who say that payment disclosure “could allow terrorists” to target a project

2 Nigerian oil workers unions who say it would actually make them safer

5 Companies who met SEC Commissioner Gallagher on December 2, 2011, to lobby for a weak final rule—Shell, Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Occidental

15 Oil and mining companies who “support” the voluntary Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) program who are also members of American Petroleum Institute (API). API has threatened to sue the SEC to keep payment info secret.

5 Companies on the EITI board who are also API members

11 Luxury sports cars worth at least $5 million belonging to Teodoro seized by French police in Paris as part of an investigation into possible corruption

20 Days after auto seizure that President Obiang scored his son a UNESCO envoy post in Paris

$5,000 Teodoro’s reported monthly government salary as Equatorial Guinea’s minister of agriculture

2010 Year Equatorial Guinea was expelled from EITI for failing to meet its minimum transparency requirements

5 Companies producing oil and gas in Equatorial Guinea who will be covered by Dodd-Frank (Exxon, Marathon, Hess, Noble, and Mitsui produce the vast majority of oil and gas in Equatorial Guinea. The first four are members of the American Petroleum Institute. API sent a letter to the SEC on January 19 saying it would be unlawful to issue a final rule to implement the Dodd-Frank provision.)

No data Percent of Equatorial Guinea’s population living below the poverty line. An estimated 60 percent lived on less than $1 a day according to a 2006 UN report.

700,000 Population in Equatorial Guinea still in the dark about the country’s finances and waiting for full implementation of Dodd-Frank Section 1504

by Ian Gary, January 31, 2012

One Response to “By the numbers: giving stories the attention they deserve”

  1. […] few days ago I posted information on Section 1504, along with a few […]

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