The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

The fight is on!

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Anti-poverty and financial transparency campaigners take on big oil

In the first Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker and friends somehow blew up the Death Star. That’s a bit how we felt in 2010 when after years of fighting we got a new global financial transparency requirement into the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. The provision requires oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose tax and other payments in every country of operation. As I’ve been writing about in the last two weeks, we now feel like we are in The Empire Strikes Back. The oil industry has threatened to sue the SEC if they don’t get a regulation they like and are using lobbyists and lawyers to try to roll-back our victory.

SEC ad campaign photo

Now it’s time for Revenge of the Jedi and the gloves are off. Oxfam and our allies in the Publish What You Pay coalition are mounting a big campaign to tell oil companies to stop fighting transparency—join us to take action. We have a six-figure ad campaign running the next two weeks, including a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, and online ads in the Washington Post, The Hill, Politico, and the Huffington Post. (The Wall Street Journal ad is endorsed by Global Witness, Revenue Watch Institute, Global Financial Integrity, EG Justice, and the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development.)

In addition to mounting an e-action campaign targeting Chevron, Exxon and ConocoPhillips, Oxfam is reaching out to our university campus-based CHANGE student activists for a petition drive to SEC Commissioners telling them to issue a strong final regulation. The ONE campaign is also pressuring the SEC with a petition that has over 84,000 signatures so far.

Last week Oxfam activists portrayed Chevron, Exxon, and the SEC in bed together outside SEC headquarters in Washington, which generated good coverage including the morning commute on NPR. This week, the “hear no evil, see no evil” monkeys will be outside the Chevron tower in Houston, telling the company and its employees the time for silence is over.

Congress is ramping up the pressure on the SEC to issue a strong final rule and to follow the law—five prominent Senators wrote on Jan. 31, and we are expecting more Congressional pressure this week.

The battle is also being fought on a number of fronts. Over in Europe, activists staged a stunt a government building in London and the ONE campaign has a big petition drive to make sure European regulators stand up to oil company lobbying there. Elsewhere, allies in resource-rich countries such as Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, Cambodia, and Ecuador are writing to the SEC to make sure they know how important this information is to hold their own governments accountable for the spending of oil and mining wealth.

Oil companies have a lot on their plate and this lawsuit has the makings of a classic PR nightmare. (Imagine the headlines—“Oil companies sue to keep tax payments secret”.) Let’s win again and bring this saga to an end.

Oxfam SEC oil transparency stunt.  Photo by Oxfam America.
Oxfam SEC oil transparency stunt. Photo by Oxfam America.

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  1. Pingback: The fight is on! Anti-poverty and financial transparency campaigners take on big oil « Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development

  2. Pingback: The fight is on! Anti-poverty and financial transparency campaigners take on big oil | Blog EG Justice

  3. Pingback: Gloves are off! | Pipe(line)Dreams

  4. todd.popoa@mailnull.com'Absurdity

    A few years ago I started looking at the integrated oil companies SEC quarterly reports. They basically are “lifting” (the cost of taking oil out of the ground) for about $6 a barrel. We all know how bad the speculation is on Wall St which is a lot of the reason we are paying $100 a barrel wholesale.

    What we need is a delivery requirement for all commodities to stop the speculation.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: ONE | The fight is on! Anti-poverty & financial transparency campaigners take on big oil

  6. Ian Gary

    Thanks for the comment, B McGrath. We’ve seen lack of transparency in both publicly-owned and privately-owned companies around the world. It takes strong regulation and citizen oversight to make sure these companies are transparennt – whether privately or publicly owned.

    Reply
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