A few months ago, the oil lobby sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), demanding that transparency requirements be watered down in the wake of a court ruling that sent mandatory disclosure regulations back to the Commission for a re-write. Last week, the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition struck back. In a new submission to the SEC, the coalition underlines the importance of information on extractive companies’ payments to governments for investors and citizens of resource-rich countries and rebuts the industry’s arguments.
In previous posts, I’ve talked about the ways in which the American Petroleum Institute (API) has twisted facts and invented doomsday scenarios to avoid disclosing their payments to the public. Unsurprisingly (and unapologetically), they regurgitated the same misleading arguments in their most recent submission to the SEC. API insists that the only way to address their concerns is for the SEC to keep payment disclosures confidential, to publish only an anonymized compilation of country-level data, and to grant reporting exemptions so big, you could sneak an oil tanker through them. PWYP’s comment puts these absurd arguments to rest.
First, PWYP shows that not only human rights groups that want these disclosures; investors are also keen to see what extractive companies pay for their natural resources. In fact, investors with over $5.6 trillion in assets under management have come out in support of detailed, public disclosure of natural resource payments to governments. In addition to socially responsible funds, these investors include UBS, one of the largest asset managers in the world, which clearly makes decisions based on expected returns rather than ethical considerations. As it turns out, the interests of investors and communities converge when it comes to mandatory transparency. Both groups have a strong desire to see . . .