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Progressives Denounce Trump SEC's "Gift to the Oil Industry" as Anti-Corruption Rule Gets Neutered

Section 1504 of Dodd-Frank requires fossil fuel companies to disclose payments to foreign governments, but outgoing SEC chairman Jay Clayton just weakened the anti-corruption rule.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Jay Clayton awaits the start of a hearing on Capitol Hill September 24, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Jay Clayton awaits the start of a hearing on Capitol Hill September 24, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Progressives on Wednesday decried the Trump administration's weakening of an anti-corruption rule requiring fossil fuel companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday night called a rule change proposed by outgoing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman Jay Clayton—which ultimately passed Wednesday—"a gift to the oil industry."

According to Reuters:
The agency voted 3-2 to adopt industry-friendly changes to its "resources extraction" disclosure rule following a 10-year industry fight to water down the measure, mandated by the 2010 Dodd Frank law passed to battle corporate corruption. It was the third version of the rule.[...]
 
All three Republican commissioners voted in favor of the rule, which still requires a publicly held U.S. oil, gas, or mineral company, or a foreign company whose shares trade on a U.S. market, to disclose payments made directly or by a subsidiary to the U.S. federal government and relevant foreign government.

Both Democrats on the commission voted no to the rule, which requires only aggregated information at a national level in most cases, instead of on a contract-by-contract basis.

While the Cardin-Lugar amendment—which became law in 2010 as Section 1504 of the 2008 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—"established an international standard" for transparency by mandating oil, gas, and mining corporations to divulge payments to foreign governments, the SEC on Wednesday finalized "an extremely weak version of the oil anti-corruption rule," advocacy group Public Citizen said in a statement.

This isn't the first time the fossil fuel industry has fought Section 1504, as The Daily Poster's Julia Rock reported last week.

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When Republicans in Congress were dismantling the strong version of the anti-corruption rule in 2011, former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said in a speech defending the legislation that "history shows that oil, gas reserves, and minerals frequently can be a bane, not a blessing, for poor countries, leading to corruption, wasteful spending, military adventurism, and instability."

"Too often," he added, "oil money intended for a nation's poor ends up lining the pockets of the rich or is squandered on showcase projects instead of productive investments."

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen, said Wednesday that in the aftermath of congressional Republicans' elimination of "a robust version of the rule... Jay Clayton's SEC is lock[ing] in a replacement rule rife with half-measures and loopholes."

Gilbert noted that "the final rule bends to the fossil fuel lobby's demands, especially in allowing companies to keep secret the tax subsidies they receive from the federal government."

Public Citizen argued that the SEC's move will "reduce transparency and invite corrupt industry payments to foreign officials."

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