A photograph of Jake Parent, coordinator of Public Citizen's U.S. Chamber WatchA federal court is considering an industry challenge to a rule recently adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would require certain oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments.

Congress directed the SEC to adopt the rule at the behest of human rights groups and investors concerned that the lack of transparency hinders citizens’ ability to hold their governments accountable for the management of revenues from oil, natural gas and minerals.

The Chamber’s reasoning for opposing the measure?

It says that complying with the rule would cost companies too much money and make it difficult for American businesses to compete with firms from countries without disclosure requirements.

Oxfam America, which filed a brief in the case to support the rule, said separately that a similar rule recently adopted by the European Union shows that such complaints are groundless.

In statement after statement, the Chamber has consistently reaffirmed its belief that its corporate members should not have to share information about whom they make payments to.

But the SEC doesn’t agree, and neither does Public Citizen. We think the court should uphold the rule, which aims to diminish the “resource curse” – the phenomenon by which the people in countries with lots of mineral resources find themselves worse off as a result of mining and drilling activities.

There’s no serious claim that disclosing this information will impose meaningful direct costs on oil, gas and mining companies – surely they know how much they pay in royalties and maintain appropriate records.

And whatever proprietary interest they have in concealing their royalty payments pales before the human rights and development imperative of empowering people in developing countries to hold their governments accountable and ensure that mineral wealth benefits the countries’ populace, not just government elites and the multinational oil and gas companies.

Jake Parent is the coordinator of Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch. Keep up with Chamber Watch by following @uschamberwatch on Twitter.

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Comments

  • Rob Gustaveson

    SO Congress does something right then the vested interest tries to overturn it. If you care about “security” then disclose all, always.

  • Paul Lauenstein

    Nothing like the light of day to keep everyone on the straight and narrow.

  • Canada has one of the lowest royalty rates in the world, the politics of the country are dominated by foreign oil interests. Some benefits accrue to the people, but the wealth is largely looted, the locals are struggling to have a say in the decisions that affect them, a great many consider the country to be teetering on the edge of corrupt petro-state status. The Communist Chinese are moving into your attic America, be vigilant.

  • What the Chamber wants is illegal and the thought of paying off politicians in developing countries already casts a shadow of doubt on American integrity. How long will our Government allow these corporations to pollute the fabric of these countries, who actually need our help to become good citizens of the world, and not victims of scams from these companies.

  • Bonnie Fisher

    Oxfam and Public Citizen can bank on my continued support (albeit small) for their efforts in making the Chamber behave responsibly.

  • [...] US Chamber of Commerce is fighting to preserve the secrecy of what mining and extraction companies that are nominally American pay to other [...]

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