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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 2nd March 2017

Transparent defiance

Blue Lines

A vote by the United States House of Representatives to end the legal requirement that compels oil and mining companies to disclose all payments to foreign governments is a tactical defeat for anti-corruption campaigners. That's partly because of highly effective lobbying by US oil giant ExxonMobil. All this lobbying was on the watch of Rex Tillerson as Chief Executive of ExxonMobil, who is now President Donald Trump's Secretary of State.

The company’s filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission do not reveal any direct role by Tillerson in the lobbying but evidently he didn't support the 'Publish What You Pay' law. In fact, the start of the Publish What You Pay campaign dates back to ExxonMobil's involvement in one of the most egregious examples of corporate-state collusion in diverting resources revenue in Equatorial Guinea (AC Vol 45 No 15, Private estate). The scandal was the subject of a detailed US Senate investigation, which tracked payments said to have originated from ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil and Amerada Hess to individuals representing President Teodoro Obiang and family. The funds ended up in special accounts in Riggs Bank in Washington DC. At the time, companies could make payments to foreign governments at will under US law, but Riggs Bank was found complicit in money laundering and went out of business shortly afterwards. The next target in some US politicians' sights is the groundbreaking Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977.