President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a measure scrapping anticorruption regulations long opposed by the oil industry.
Part of a blitz of recent White House maneuvers against regulation and perceived red tape, the move undoes the requirement for international oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.
Created by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the rule, which had not yet taken effect, targeted an area long plagued by bribery and corruption. It was called for in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.
Industry advocates had been trying to overturn the payments rule, saying it put US-traded companies at a competitive disadvantage, since they must reveal information other companies may not have to and because compliance was costly.
However, similar rules currently are in effect in Canada, the European Union and Norway.
Trump has touted his closeness to the oil industry, naming prominent oil industry figures and advocates to key positions in his administration, reviving pipeline projects rejected by the prior administration and signaling a marked shift away from climate policies.
Jack Gerard, head of the American Petroleum Institute, an industry lobbying group, hailed the move to kill the payments rule as a “welcome step forward.”
He said the rule could have achieved its goal without placing an undue burden on US companies.
Transparency campaigners condemned the action, but said the fight was far from over.
“In the short term, we lost a tool that can help track the billions of dollars lost to corruption and tax evasion in the developing world,” Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious development organization Jubilee, said in a statement.
Jana Morgan, director of Publish What You Pay US, told AFP the Dodd-Frank law requires the SEC to impose such a rule.
“They are required to produce a new regulation. The statute requires them to do that within a year,” said Morgan, noting that the US is now behind the curve on a policy where it had once led.
“Norway I think has been disclosing for about three years. The EU is now in its second year and Canada is disclosing for the first time.”
Earlier this month, six Republican senators, including Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker, wrote to the SEC saying that while they planned to vote to junk the rule, they supported its underlying purpose and hoped to see a viable newer version.
“We are of course strong supporters of policies to combat US companies’ participation in corrupt financial practices abroad,” they wrote.