Exxon To Face More Scrutiny at Upcoming Transparency Initiative Meeting

Exxon To Face More Scrutiny at Upcoming Transparency Initiative Meeting

Board Chair of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative calls for an “exceptional” board meeting in response to civil society demand for removal of Exxon representative

The Chair of the EITI Board has called for an “exceptional” board meeting to be held in two weeks time to discuss a formal complaint that Publish What You Pay – United States (PWYP-US) submitted in February over the actions of Matthew Gobush, an Exxon lobbyist and an EITI Board Member.

Gobush participated in lobbying meetings at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Chamber of Commerce, two of the largest American oil lobby groups. These meetings focused on the SEC’s implementing rule for Dodd-Frank Section 1504, a transparency provision requiring mandatory payment disclosures from oil, gas, and mining companies. The API and the Chamber have been long-term opponents of a strong implementing rule in alignment with the EITI Standard and reiterated their position in support of a weak rule during last year’s comment period. PWYP-US therefore raised concern regarding Gobush’s attendance at these meetings – namely that Gobush, an EITI Board Member, attended lobby meetings with the two industry groups who have continuously fought against strong extractive industry payment transparency regulations in the US for the past decade.

The PWYP-US complaint is the second civil society complaint to the EITI Board regarding Exxon’s compliance with EITI requirements as well as the company’s adherence to the EITI principles, codes of conduct, articles of association, and other relevant obligations, despite its status as an EITI Supporting Company and long-held seat on the EITI Board. While the first complaint was met with nothing more than a slap on the wrist for Exxon from the EITI Board Chair at the time, the new grievance makes clear that decisive action is the only way that the EITI can maintain its credibility as a legitimate multi stakeholder initiative. 

Publish What You Pay-US Coalition Director Kathleen Brophy issued the following statement:

“Exxon is threatening to make a mockery of the EITI and Chair Helen Clark and the rest of the EITI Board must not let them get away with it. So far, the Board has not taken real action in response to our irrefutable case for removal. We are encouraged by the call for an exceptional board meeting and appreciate Chair Clark’s leadership in addressing this issue. In the spirit of transparency, this meeting should be made public, and any resolution to the issue should be disseminated broadly.

The EITI has refused requests to make the company constituency response to the Exxon complaint public, endangering EITI’s core mission of transparency. The EITI should not be in the business of concealing documents or withholding information. 

The EITI Board must demonstrate that they are willing to protect the integrity of the initiative and will not succumb to bullying by oil and gas companies like Exxon. If they fail to act, PWYP-US will express a vote of no confidence in the EITI Board and encourage all civil society groups to do the same. We sincerely hope the Board will recognize what’s at stake and heed our call to hold oil and gas company Board members accountable in order to preserve the EITI’s legitimacy.”