An op-ed by Brooke Moore, LiKEN Research Assistant
Anti-Fracking Protest – Photo by Julie Maldonado, Cape Town, South Africa, October 2012.
While the expediting of the Dakota and Keystone Pipelines by President Trump made global headlines, many other important actions have gone by undetected. One important example is Representative Bill Huizenga’s bill to abolish “Section 1504” of Dodd-Frank – more commonly known as the anti-corruption rule (Grossman-Cohen 2017). Section 1504 requires that oil, gas and mining companies publish statements of their payments towards foreign governments (Grossman-Cohen 2017). The purpose of this was to decrease corruption by making governments accountable for any money given to them, as information about the acquisition of such money would then be accessible by the public. Such an anti-corruption law safeguards civilians of under-developed nations by ensuring this money goes to necessities, such as education, health care and infrastructure. The capital obtained from these “extractives operations” are in many cases “the only significant source of government revenue in underdeveloped countries” (Sibley 2017). Because of this, these operations have the ability to either aid and modernize a county, or further increase the wealth disparity between civilians and unethical elites. When looking to understand the importance of section 1504, it is necessary to see the scope of corruption and the extent to which it can be taken.
An infamous case of corruption that was investigated was the dealing between ExxonMobil and the Nigerian Government. ExxonMobil was working with the Nigerian Government to renew their oil licenses at a price of $1.5 billion (Global Witness 2016). After this renewal, however, the Nigerian Government not only may have valued these licenses at $2.55 billion, but also possibly sold them at a much higher cost (Global Witness 2016). The reason they were able to do this was because no payments had been published originally (Global Witness 2016).
Many big oil and mining companies have spoken out against section 1504 for several reasons. Some say they believe it will divulge sensitive information while others say it threatens their competitive edge (Morgan 2015). In actuality, these allegations are false. Some companies have even noted, “transparency makes good business sense, and is not costly or damaging to their operations in any way” (Morgan 2015). In reality, companies who want section 1504 dismissed are those that fear immoral governments will no longer want business without discretion, furthering corruption.
Section 1504, and the civilians it protects, is essential. In order to defend under-developed communities from the grasp of corruption – and the poverty it brings – governments must be held accountable for their actions. The first step towards this is transparency and making government dealings and actions public knowledge. For this reason, eliminating section 1504 will only worsen the situation within developing countries meaning that we as a developed nation have the responsibility to stand up and defend section 1504.
Global Witness. “Global Witness Report Sheds Light On Exxonmobil’s Questionable Dealings In Nigeria.” Global Witness, 24 June 2016, www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/probe-murky-exxonmobil-deal-shows-need-tough-oil-transparency-rules/.
Grossman-Cohen, Ben. “Is Representative Bill Huizenga pro-corruption?” Oxfam, 24 Jan. 2017, politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org/2017/01/is-rep-bill-huizenga-pro-corruption/.
Morgan, Jana. “The foundation is shaking beneath Big Oil’s House of Cards.” Publish What You Pay Us, 18 Aug. 2015, www.pwypusa.org/the-foundation-is-shaking-beneath-big-oils-house-of-cards/.
Sibley, Nate. “Fueling Kleptocracy: Transparency in the Extractives Industry.” Kleptocracy Initiative, 24 Jan. 2017, kleptocracyinitiative.org/2017/01/fueling-kleptocracy-transparency-in-the-extractives-industry/.