H.J. Res 41 Oil, Mining and Natural Gas Companies are Officially Allowed to pay Corrupt Governments in Order to do Business…

H.J. Res 41 Oil, Mining and Natural Gas Companies are Officially Allowed to pay Corrupt Governments in Order to do Business…

There are many wealthy nations in this world and there could be, even should be, many more for numerous nations have access to great riches within their soils – be it oil, minerals or natural gas. US Foreign Policy has been to support transparency in the extraction industries (i.e. all the companies & processes involved in extracting oil, minerals, coal and natural gas) so that citizens of these resource rich yet economically poor nations can better ensure that corruption stays clear from their wealth (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/07/27/2016-15676/disclosure-of-payments-by-resource-extraction-issuers). Put more simply the thrust of U.S. Foreign Policy has been to ensure that citizens can know who is paying whom and can have confidence that their governments, politicians, businessmen/businesswomen are not stealing the wealth of the people.

Thus in 2010 a new section was added to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was adopted in 2012, vacated by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2013, re-adopted in 2015, combined with another amendment and turned into law in 2016 and repealed in 2017 by H.J. Res 41 (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/07/27/2016-15676/disclosure-of-payments-by-resource-extraction-issuers). Despite all the action surrounding this rule, it actually is not salacious. The rule, which was recommended by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “require[s] each resource extraction issuer to include in an annual report . . . information relating to any payment made by the resource extraction issuer, a subsidiary of the resource extraction issuer, or an entity under the control of the resource extraction issuer to a foreign government or the Federal Government for the purpose of the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals, including—(i) the type and total amount of such payments made for each project of the resource extraction issuer relating to the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals, and (ii) the type and total amount of such payments made to each government” (source: same as above).

One of the strongest critics of this rule was/has been, “the American Petroleum Institute — which represents Exxon Mobil, Chevron and other petroleum companies — [who] complained that the rule would impose an unfair burden on the U.S. oil industry, since foreign competitors would not face the same requirement” (http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Trump-Today-Another-big-win-for-oil-10932330.php) (keep reading because it turns out other nations found this rule inspiring and crafted their own versions of it). The fact that it is impossible for the U.S. to legislate what foreign owned companies do in foreign countries seems to have been missed in this critique. But then again, clear logic did not seem to be present in any of the criticism of this rule: “Congress voted earlier this month [February] to kill the rule and sent it on to Trump, saying the rule put American energy companies at a disadvantage by burdening them with additional costs that foreign competitors do not have to pay. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., the bill’s author, has called the regulation “cumbersome.” “The SEC’s rule requires disclosure for American companies but not foreign entities, fundamentally harming American workers and shareholders,” [said] American Petroleum Institute Director of Tax Policy Stephen Comstock” (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2017/02/14/Trump-nixes-anti-corruption-regulation-for-US-energy-companies/2021487103685/).

In an interesting twist of fate, back when Mr. Rex Tillerson was CEO of Exxon he flew to Washington D.C. to personally lobby against this rule, yet now as Secretary of State he arguably should be supporting those who live in resource rich nations who see their assets lost to corruption…. ”The leader of the world’s most valuable company doesn’t typically fly to Washington to fight one obscure amendment to a 2,300-page bill, especially a motherhood-and-apple-pie-style amendment designed to prevent and expose corruption abroad. But back in 2010, ExxonMobil’s then-CEO, Rex Tillerson, was deeply worried about Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, a bipartisan amendment that required drilling and mining companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments. So Tillerson and one of his lobbyists paid a half-hour visit to the amendment’s Republican co-author, then-Senator Richard Lugar, to try to get it killed.

Tillerson argued that forcing U.S. oil firms to reveal corporate secrets—such as paying foreign governments—would put them at a competitive disadvantage. He also explained that the provision would make it especially difficult for Exxon to do business in Russia, where, as he did not need to explain, the government takes a rather active interest in the oil industry. But Lugar believed greater transparency could help alleviate the “resource curse” of corruption that plagues so many mineral-rich countries, so he told Tillerson they would have to agree to disagree. Section 1504 stayed in the bill, the bill became law, and the disclosure requirement became an international example: France, Canada and the United Kingdom all went on to use it as a model for similar rules” (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/rex-tillerson-tried-to-get-this-rule-killed-now-congress-is-about-to-do-it-for-him-214725).

While one may disagree with the stance Mr. Tillerson took back in 2010 at least it is clear he knew what the rule was about, with Mr. Trump it seems less clear that he knows what the rule he repealed actually accomplished, since based on his comments at the signing ceremony he somehow thinks repealing this law will create jobs: “This is a big signing, a very important signing.  And this is H.J. Resolution 41, disapproving the Securities and Exchange Commission’s rule on disclosure of payments by resource extraction issuers.  It’s a big deal…. And we’re bringing back jobs big league, we’re bringing them back at the plant level; we’ve [sic] bringing them back at the mine level.  The energy jobs are coming back” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/14/remarks-president-trump-signing-hj-resolution-41).

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