Bill Gates presses SEC to issue strict oil, mining disclosure rules

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has joined the fight in support of proposed U.S. rules that would require certain oil, gas and mining companies to disclose what they pay to nations whose resources they develop, in the face of strong lobbying from the energy industry.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed rules would require companies listed with the agency to disclose what they pay to the U.S. and foreign governments where they mine and drill commercially.

The oil and gas industry, including its main trade group the American Petroleum Institute, have fought for exemptions to the rules, saying they could put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage. Gates told the SEC to finalize rules that don’t bow to industry pressure to include certain disclosure exemptions.

“The Commission has a mandate to implement final rules reflecting the clear intent and reporting requirements established by Congress,” Gates wrote in a letter. “Such rules would be consistent with emerging international norms and practice, and help reinforce a competitive and level playing field for U.S. corporations and foreign companies. It would produce real benefits for the citizens of the countries where the investments take place.”

Human rights and anti-poverty groups say disclosing the payments would encourage corrupt governments that rely heavily on oil and gas revenues to spend the money more wisely. The rules, which are required under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, were supposed to be finalized in April 2011.

Activists with Oxfam America and other human rights and anti-poverty groups have launched a campaign to push back on the industry’s lobbying efforts against the long-delayed rules. Additionally, 14 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to the SEC yesterday pressing their case for rules with no exemptions.

“We urge you to resist this pressure and promptly release a strong and effective final rule,” said the lawmakers, among them Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Bill Gates letter