While Shell Resists Payment Transparency, Statoil Supports It

Issue: Dodd-Frank
Country: Europe
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This was a big week in the transparency movement.

On Wednesday, George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundations (and RWI funder) criticized Royal Dutch Shell for pressuring the Netherlands government to weaken proposed European Union disclosure rules, pressure that the Dutch government today indicated it had decided to resist. It promised to endorse rules that did not grant companies exemptions reporting country-by-country the payments made to governments.

Soros wrote:

All eyes are now on Europe as it works to deliver an equal dose of transparency through the EU Accounting and Transparency Directives. If the number of countries with these progressive laws went from one to twenty-eight, a new global standard of transparency would be achieved.

If Europe fails to deliver this major advance soon, hard won progress to increase transparency in the oil, gas, and mining industries could be put at risk.

[…] Regrettably, a number of oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell are putting pressure on European governments to weaken these rules. Shell is also a member of a U.S. oil industry association which is going to court to try to overturn the U.S. legislation passed in 2010 and is therefore fighting these laws on both sides of the Atlantic.

It would be a great shame if the Netherlands were to bow to this pressure at the expense of citizens who seek empowerment and accountability through these truly historic rules.

Alan Detheridge, a former Shell executive and currently an RWI board member, echoed that criticism in the UK’s The Guardian:

As a former oil company executive, having spent 30 years with Royal Dutch Shell, I am concerned at my former industry's efforts to undermine a key European transparency law which is close to agreement.

[…] Oil companies, including Shell, are trying to convince European governments to weaken the proposed reporting by pushing for exemptions and opposing project-level reporting. These same companies are also members of the American Petroleum Institute, which is going to court to try to overturn the US legislation passed in 2010 and thereby turn back the clock on transparency.

This bleak news was countered with a welcomed statement by Norway’s state-owned oil company, Statoil, that it does not support API’s lawsuit challenging Section 1504. Baiba A. Rubesa, Statoil’s vice president for corporate social responsibility, wrote in a letter to Global Witness: "We believe that such reporting is not an impediment for doing business, but has been a competitive advantage for Statoil."

"Europe has a tremendous opportunity to pass ground-breaking legislation which could improve the lives of millions of people around the world," Soros wrote. The European Parliament, thorough the EU Accounting and Transparency Directives, is scheduled to vote this spring on its transparency legislation.

Suzanne Ito blogs for RWI.

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