February 02, 2017

Brown Opposes Repeal of Anti-Corruption Rule for Energy, Mining Companies

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – today defended a bipartisan rule that makes it harder for oil, gas, and mining companies to engage in bribery and corruption in developing nations. The Senate is now considering a measure to repeal the rule.

The transparency rule, which was finalized in 2016, protects U.S. citizens and investors from having millions of their dollars vanish into the pockets of corrupt foreign oligarchs. The rule does this by requiring all oil, gas, and mineral companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to annually disclose the payments they make to foreign countries in which they operate.

“Killing this anti-corruption rule means everyday American investors, shareholders, and poverty-stricken communities around the world will continue to see their money and natural resources stolen by crooked oligarchs,” said Brown. “This bill puts Big Oil and its cronies ahead of transparency and accountability, and ought to be called the Kleptocrat Relief Act.”

The transparency rule is the result of a bipartisan provision that Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) added to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Today, the Senate is considering a measure to repeal the rule under the Congressional Review Act, a law that allows Congress to roll back federal rules on a simple-majority vote if they were finalized within the last 60 legislative days.

Ever since the rule’s introduction, ExxonMobil, formerly led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and other members of the oil industry have fought tooth and nail against it. API’s legal maneuvering stalled the rule's implementation for years. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued a new, improved rule last year, which is in effect and would require disclosure starting in 2019.

Over 30 countries - including many European nations and Canada - have adopted similar anti-corruption rules. Today these measures apply to 80 percent of the world’s largest publicly-listed oil, gas and mining companies, including state-owned companies from Russia, China, and Brazil. 

Investor groups with nearly $10 trillion under management, religious groups, and organizations such as Global Witness, One Campaign, and Publish What You Pay have championed this rule to protect investors and the citizens of poverty-stricken, mineral-rich countries.

In 2015, Oxfam estimated that oil produced in poor countries over the past five years was worth more than $1.5 trillion to their governments. This money could have helped governments pay for schools, roads, hospitals and build local economies without U.S. foreign aid.

The rule has strong support from gas and mining workers unions like the United Steelworkers. BP and Shell have publicly endorsed payment reporting and lining up U.S. rules with those in other markets.