The Dodd-Frank Act, Project-Level Reporting, and Big Oil's Shaky Claims Over Competitive Disadvantage

In a detailed submission to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), economist Robert Conrad of Duke University recently shared his expert perspective on the critical importance of oil, gas and mining companies publicly reporting project-level payments to governments around the world.

Dr. Conrad (a member of the Natural Resource Governance Institute’s advisory council) wrote to comment on the SEC’s rulemaking under Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Although the mandatory disclosure requirement was part of a law passed by Congress in 2010, the implementing rule has been beset by delays, which included a 2012 legal challenge by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other industry lobbyists to the SEC’s initial rule. Oxfam America recently won a court ruling whereby the SEC has been ordered to submit an “expedited schedule” to finalize the rule by early October 2015. Dr. Conrad’s submission has therefore come at an important time as the SEC formulates the revised, final rule.

In his submission, Dr. Conrad makes clear that individual oil, gas and mining companies which are listed on US stock exchanges and covered by the law would need to make public their project payments to governments in resource-rich countries in order for citizens to evaluate the benefits of resource development. Furthermore, Dr. Conrad outlines why the provision of such information by US-listed companies (and indeed companies in many other jurisdictions which have implemented similar rules, including the European Union and Canada) does not place those companies at a competitive disadvantage in relation to companies who are not required to make similar disclosures.

Dr. Conrad’s submission to the SEC is available here.

Joseph Williams is a senior advocacy officer at the Natural Resource Governance Institute.