Delay in U.S. extractives rules aids corruption: Oxfam America

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 15, 2015 9:10 AM

By Stella Dawson

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Five years after the United States required oil, gas and mining companies to disclose how much they pay governments, U.S. reporting rules have yet to take effect robbing citizens in poor countries of critical data for combating corruption, Oxfam America said on Wednesday.

Every year, extractive industries pay hundreds of billions of dollars to some of the poorest countries in the world, and some of that money may be lost to bribery, it said in calling on U.S. regulators to stop delaying on extractives disclosure.

Oil produced by developing countries alone has generated about $1.55 trillion for their governments with limited transparency since the U.S. law was passed in 2010, Oxfam America said in releasing its report "Show Us the Money!"

"Almost 700 million people in resource rich countries live in absolute poverty. These people have the right to know what happens to the money siphoned off from their own back yards," said Isabel Munilla, its senior policy adviser, in a teleconference.

The United States set a new standard for disclosure on oil, gas and mining revenues in 2010 when Congress required publicly traded companies to give detailed disclosure of their tax, contract and other payments to governments, and to provide details broken down by country and by project.

But industry leaders filed suit to block the law. The American Petroleum Institute and U.S. Chambers of Commerce argued the Securities and Exchange rules were overly broad, too costly and anti-competitive. The court in 2013 sent them back to the SEC for review.

After several postponements, the SEC has said it plans to issue new disclosure regulations by spring 2016.

The SEC did not return a call for further comment. API said it would welcome speedy SEC action to issue rules that increase transparency without harming industry competitiveness.

"We are not anti-disclosure," said Carlton Carrol, API spokesman. "But we have concerns about implementing rules on one side of the world when there are state-owned oil companies in Russia and China that are not subject to those rules."

Meanwhile, the European Union, Canada and Norway have moved ahead with extractives rules modeled after the U.S. And the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative, a voluntary coalition of industry, governments and civil society that sets disclosure standards, has embraced similar changes. Advocacy groups said they show that new global standards are emerging.

"What is the SEC waiting for?" said Jana Morgan, director of Publish What You Pay US, a coalition of advocacy groups for revenue transparency from the oil, gas and mining industry.

(Reporting by Stella Dawson; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)