The Trump administration appears ready to retreat from its
predecessors’ financial transparency commitments at a time
when a strong US effort looks more essential than ever, a
speaker asserted during an Aug. 8 discussion at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace.
“It’s important to say out loud at this point that this ad-
ministration, unlike its Republican predecessors, is com-
mitted to pulling the plug on any programs that promote
transparency,” said Steve Coll, dean of Columbia Universi-
ty’s Journalism School and author of “Private Empire: Exx-
onMobil and American Power.”
“It’s a general repudiation of what previous administra-
tions have done,” said Coll, who subsequently recommended
that US policymakers adopt a comprehensive approach to
fostering financial transparency on as many levels as pos-
sible to battle corrupt foreign government officials.
Other parts of the US government seem intent on reversing hard-won financial transparency gains, another speaker
declared. “Disclosure alone isn’t enough,” said Simon Taylor,
a cofounding director of the London-based Global Witness
“Since the Dodd-Frank law was passed in 2010, we’ve
seen excuses from the petroleum industry about why it
wouldn’t work,” Taylor said. “Are the companies concerned
their involvement in questionable deals will embarrass them
in front of their shareholders, or do they simply want to see
this system continue?”
Taylor said he considers the 115th Congress’s passage
of a Congressional Review Act resolution repealing Section
1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer
Protection earlier this year “the most shameful thing that’s
happened in this country recently (OGJ Online, Feb. 3,
Taylor said, “The arguments that were used to repeal this
important provision were the same ones that didn’t stand up
when the law was passed. Unless we make people account-
able when they are responsible for these activities, we’re not
going to get anywhere.”
Two US multinational oil companies, ExxonMobil Corp.
and Chevron Corp., have been hesitant to participate in the
voluntary Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in
the meantime, Taylor added.
‘Every 200,000 b/d counted’
Coll noted that publicly traded oil multinationals first entered foreign countries where it was difficult to operate because they were running out of “easy oil” before unconventional exploration, production, and development blossomed
beginning in 2008. “Every 200,000 b/d counted back then.
It’s still a problem today to some degree,” he said.
“Coming from a society where a key part of the government operates as a criminal enterprise, it’s not surprising
that 200,000 b/d of production can disappear,” said a third
speaker, Olarenwaju Suraju, a Nigerian anticorruption and
environmental activist who chairs that country’s Civil Society Network Against Corruption.
“The conspiracy includes other forces such as banks and,
in some cases, national embassies,” Suraju said. “It extends
even to production meters that are owned, maintained, and
read by the oil companies. The consequences extend from
migration issues in Africa to immigration concerns in the
Sarah Chayes, a senior fellow in the Carnegie Endow-
ment’s Democracy and Rule of Law Program who moderated
the discussion, said consequences of such rampant corrup-
tion in Nigeria even may be driving many people there into
the terrorist group Boko Harum’s arms.
Coll said, “Oil triggers this kind of corruption because
its global market is so liquid. This makes it easy to move
the commodity without transparency and accountability.
There’s a kind of disconnect between the oil itself and the
Suraju estimated that about $12 billion in oil transac-
tions are not reported now in Nigeria despite recent gov-
ernment reform efforts. “Citizens are starting to connect a
country’s reputation to companies which have headquarters
there, which could have consequences none of us want,” he
Speakers expect White House
to back away from transparency