Republicans in the US have axed Obama-era anti-corruption rules for energy and mining companies. The move, which is awaiting sign-off by President Trump, reverses years of progress in a sector often accused of dodgy dealings. It also threatens to kick off a global race to the bottom, as countries compete to offer oil firms the murkiest business environment.
The rule in question is a requirement for American oil, gas and mining companies to publicly disclose all payments of US$100,000 or more to foreign governments in connection with projects abroad. A version of the rule was first adopted in 2012 under the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in response to the financial crisis. After several years of legal battles with industry lobbyists, the latest version was implemented in 2016.
On February 3 the Republican-controlled Senate passed a resolution to scrap the requirement entirely. The resolution has already passed through the House of Representatives, and Trump is expected to give final approval within days.
Energy firms have always been bitterly opposed to these rules – and for good reason. For decades, many of them have used corruption to exploit developing countries that are resource-rich but badly governed. As far back as 1976 the Watergate scandal revealed several well-known American oil companies had counterfeited their records abroad or utilised shell companies in tax havens such as the Bahamas. It is not surprising that Rex Tillerson, Trump’s new secretary of state,…