It is conflict of interest for ExxonMobil to sit on EITI Board when it played a role in US decision to withdraw from that body

Dear Editor,

In the Accountability Watch article of November 13, 2017, I had stated that the United States withdrew from the membership of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) on the grounds that “domestic implementation of the EITI Standard will conflict with the U.S. legal framework”. The decision to quit the EITI followed a long lobbying battle waged by the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil and Chevron against the disclosure of payments to governments.

Earlier in the year, President Trump had signed a congressional resolution repealing the Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring oil, gas and mining companies to publish the payments they make to governments. According to Bloomberg News, the decision “may undercut the effort that aims to give citizens and watchdogs in poor but mineral-rich nations details on how much their government leaders get in taxes, royalties and lease payments. With that information, they can ensure the money is spent on roads and schools, not squirreled away in foreign bank accounts”.

On December 11, 2017, the Stabroek News reported the Exxon Country Manager as having stated that ExxonMobil is a member of EITI. However, only countries, not entities within a country, can accede to the membership of the EITI. The oil giant, however, sits on the EITI board as an industry representative and contributes to the financing of the EITI. It is therefore inconsistent, indeed a conflict of interest, for ExxonMobil to have an association with the EITI when in the first place it played a significant role in the United States’ decision to withdraw from the membership of the EITI. Under US law, companies in the extractive industries are no longer required to disclose their payments to countries.

A clarification from the ExxonMobil Country Manager will be most welcome.

Yours faithfully,

Anand Goolsarran

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