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Oxfam Sues SEC For Failing To Enforce Oil, Mining Transparency

Two years later, Cardin-Lugar Amendment not enforced

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The Cardin-Lugar amendment calls for oil, gas and mining companies to report payments made to foreign governments.
David Ingram: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dingatx/5626808970/
The Cardin-Lugar amendment calls for oil, gas and mining companies to report payments made to foreign governments.

There were thousands of new laws and changes included in the Wall Street Reform bill passed two years ago by Congress. But one provision, pushed by Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, is the subject of a new lawsuit.

Cardin's provision, named for him and Indiana Republican Dick Lugar, makes oil, gas, and mining companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges disclose payments they make to governments in countries where they do business. The Securities and Exchange Commission was supposed to have written the rules to enforce the law last year, but Cardin says that hasn't happened yet.

"To me, the Congress was very clear as to the requirements for full disclosure," said Cardin. "I would have hoped that the SEC would have the regulations done by now as required by statute."

Industry has fought the new law, believing it puts companies that have to follow it at a disadvantage compared to those who don't, leading to fears from supporters that the law might get watered down. Cardin says he heard from the SEC that it received more feedback on this measure than any other included in the Wall Street reform bill.

The commission is getting even more now, as the non-profit group Oxfam America has sued the SEC seeking to get the regulations finished. Ian Gary of Oxfam says the law would help stop corruption, both here and worldwide in poor countries. He uses the West African nation of Equatorial Guinea as an example.

"It's been ruled by a dictator for decades," said Gary. "Voluntary approach to disclosing information has not worked there. It's one of the most corrupt countries on earth, and there's no public information on how much money companies like Chevron and Exxon are paying to the government of Equatorial Guinea."

Forbes Magazine estimates that Equitorial Guinea's president is worth $600 million, making him one of the richest heads of state in the world.

Cardin is not involved in the lawsuit, but says he understands the frustration behind it.

"I think there should be higher achievements by the SEC," said Cardin. "I think the public has a right to be disappointed that the timeframe given for the regulatory process has not been complied with."

There is no definitive timetable now for the SEC to release the regulations.

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