Following House, Senate Axes SEC Oil, Mining Payments Rule

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By Rob Tricchinelli

The Senate voted early Feb. 3 to revoke an SEC rule requiring oil, gas and mining companies to disclose more about their operations, two days after related House action.

President Donald Trump can now sign the measure, which would negate the long-embattled Securities and Exchange Commission rule mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and designed to fight overseas corruption.

It was set to take effect in 2018 and force companies like Chevron Corp. to reveal payments to governments tied to resource development.

Republican lawmakers are using the Congressional Review Act to kill the rule, which skirts the procedural requirement for 60 Senate votes. The vote broke along party lines, 52-47, with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) not voting.

Dodd-Frank Mandate

While the CRA action negates the SEC rule, it doesn’t strip away the Dodd-Frank Act provision mandating the regulation. This means the SEC is still technically required to craft the measure, even though a Republican-led commission is unlikely to act and Republican lawmakers are seeking to repeal that part of Dodd-Frank.

Several Republican lawmakers said they want the SEC to craft a better rule. “It’s time to go back to the drawing board and redo it,” Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), who sponsored the effort in the House, told Bloomberg BNA in a brief interview.

Democrats slammed the move. “This bill puts Big Oil and its cronies ahead of transparency and accountability, and ought to be called the Kleptocrat Relief Act,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in a news release.

Try, Try Again

The rule has a tortured history. The SEC’s first attempt was struck down in a lawsuit by the American Petroleum Institute. The second attempt was prompted by a different lawsuit alleging the agency was dragging its feet in reproposing it.

Oil, gas and mineral companies argue that the rule’s compliance costs, which the SEC estimates to run in the tens or hundreds of millions industry-wide, outweigh its benefits.

The rule’s supporters counter that similar rules are already in effect in other jurisdictions without hampering the industry. They also say disclosures would reduce graft in mineral-rich countries whose residents have low standards of living.

“It is alarming that lawmakers would move to undermine American efforts to combat violent extremism abroad by rolling back this anti-corruption measure, which protects American companies and democratic interests around the globe,” Clark Gascoigne, deputy director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition, said in a news release.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Tricchinelli in Washington at rtricchinelli@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Phyllis Diamond at pdiamond@bna.com; Seth Stern at sstern@bna.com

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