US Act provision to increase resource industry transparency

first_imgOn August 22, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is due to vote on Section 1504 or “Cardin-Lugar” provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. NGOs such as Oxfam America believe that the provision, signed into law in 2010, could help undo what they see as “the resource curse” in many countries suffering from corruption and mismanagement of mining and oil revenues. The law covers around 90% of internationally operating oil companies and many of the top international mining companies.According to the statutory language, these companies will be required to publicly disclose payments for the extraction of oil, gas and minerals on a country-by-country and project basis as part of financial statements that are already required by the SEC. It will include American companies, foreign companies, such as BP and Shell, as well as companies from emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil and Russia.Oxfam America states: “The historic measure will increase transparency in the industry, helping to prevent corrupt government officials from squandering oil and mineral wealth. Instability in resource-rich regions poses a long-term threat to national security, foreign policy and economic interests in the United States and it can crimp world petroleum supplies by breeding instability. On the other side of the money ‘pipeline’, it would provide information to investors who are often kept in the dark about whether companies are exposed to political and expropriation risks in volatile resource-rich countries.”The provision would not only include payments to foreign governments but also require companies reporting payments in the United States from mining and oil production on Federal lands and offshore oil and gas production on the Outer Continental Shelf. Oxfam America states: “One of the reasons for the financial crisis was a lack of public information about the real risks of investments. In the case of the oil and mining industries, investors need to know how and whether companies are exposed to political and expropriation risks in volatile resource-rich countries. In some places, companies can make up front payments of over a billion dollars before a drop of oil is produced and this information is not disclosed to investors. This disclosure provision – in addition to providing useful information to citizens in resource-rich countries also provides valuable information to investors on how to assess risk. This is part of the SEC’s core mandate.”As a display of investor interest, investors representing more than $1.2 trillion in assets under management, have called on the SEC to implement strong rules for this provision. These firms, and those who have assets with them, would want to know that their money is not supporting corruption and social, environment and human rights problems overseas. Moves is this direction are not restricted to the US. In October, 2011, the European Commission proposed Revisions to the Transparency and Accounting Directives, a draft European Union law that would mirror Section 1504 but go further by requiring both public and private companies to disclose their payments to governments in countries where they do business.Oxfam America concludes: “With the US law covering the vast majority of internationally operating oil companies and the world’s largest mining companies, and European rules covering even more companies, the transparency net will be cast far and wide. Citizens of resource-rich countries will be able to arm themselves with information they can use to track the amount of money governments receive from oil and mining companies. Through SEC action, the United States will be well-positioned to influence the European Commission’s proposal. However, delayed action by the SEC and the oil industry actively lobbying in Europe, the EC proposals could be watered down, which could also then influence the final rule in the US.”Some companies, including Talisman Energy, Statoil, AngloGold Ashanti and Newmont Mining, already disclose payments in every country of operation and in some cases they volunteer this information at a project level. NGOs like Oxfam American argue that if it was truly hurting their bottom lines, they simply wouldn’t be doing it.last_img read more