February 02, 2017

Senator Warren Condemns Republican Effort to Repeal SEC Extraction Rule, Hand Massive Giveaway to ExxonMobil

House Republicans Pass Repeal Bill Just One Day After Senate Republicans Confirm Exxon CEO as Secretary of State

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered remarks on the floor of the Senate this evening voicing her strong opposition to repealing the Securities and Exchange Commission's extraction rule. Repeal of the rule, which passed the House of Representatives today, would hand a massive giveaway to ExxonMobil. The full text of the Senator's remarks as prepared for delivery are as follows:

For the first time in more than a decade, the Republican Party controls the House, the Senate, and the White House. And this week, they are starting to roll out their legislative agenda. So now that they have complete control of the agenda, what do they have in store? Something to bump up wages for working families or create more jobs? Something to tackle the student debt crisis? Maybe something to deal with jobs that are shipped overseas?

Nope. One of the Republican Party's first orders of business is a giveaway to ExxonMobil that will help corrupt and repressive foreign regimes and make it easier to funnel money to terrorists around the world.

Here's the problem. Big corporations like Exxon or other oil, gas or mining companies often pay millions of dollars to foreign governments to access natural resources located in those countries. Many of these foreign regimes are corrupt, and Exxon's massive payouts regularly end up in the pockets of government officials rather than in the hands of the people. These corrupt officials get filthy rich while their citizens face punishing poverty and dangerous working conditions. Worse still, some of these undisclosed payments can end up financing terrorists.

Just over six years ago, Congress passed a bipartisan provision to help tackle this problem. With the strong support of Senator Dick Lugar, the leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Congress required oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose any payments they make to governments to extract natural resources. Republicans and Democrats agreed that shining a light on these payments would help combat corruption and terrorism around the globe and help citizens in some of the poorest countries in the world hold their governments accountable.

Disclosing foreign payments also helps investors in the United States make more informed investment decisions. Some investors may want to stay away from companies that could face expensive lawsuits for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or other anti-corruption laws. Other investors may just prefer not to invest in companies that could be helping prop up a corrupt foreign government or indirectly financing terrorism.

Congress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to write the rule, and the SEC spent years soliciting input from investors, human rights advocates, anti-corruption experts, and oil, gas, and mining companies. The agency ultimately issued a rule last year.

And it worked. The rule gained the support of faith groups, human rights groups, development organizations, and anti-corruption advocates across the globe. The rule also earned the support of investors who collectively controlled more than $10 trillion in assets. And it set an international standard, with the European Union, Canada, and other countries adopting similar standards for companies in their own countries.

But a handful of powerful oil and gas companies have been after this requirement from the start - and Exxon is at the top of that list. In fact, Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon at the time, personally lobbied against the requirement in 2010. His reason? The foreign payments rule would undermine Exxon's ability to do business in Russia. Listen to that again: If Exxon has to tell the world about the millions of dollars it hands over to the Russian government, Exxon won't be able to do as much business in Russia. So now the Republican Congress wants to rush in to help out poor Exxon so they can keep the secret money flowing to Russian officials.

This Exxon giveaway shows just how bankrupt the Republican agenda is. They don't have any ideas for helping working families. It's just one corporate giveaway after another - making their big business donors happy and keeping the campaign contributions flowing for the next election. The economic lives of our working families, our moral leadership in the world, the safety of our financial system and the water we drink and the air we breathe - all of those are afterthoughts to the corporate wish list.

If you are a corrupt foreign dictator, Republicans rolling back the rules is great for you. If you are an oil company executive, Republicans rolling back the rules is great for you. But if you are anyone else, you should be outraged that the Republican Congress is so willing to throw you under the bus to please those groups.

I urge all of my colleagues to vote no on this resolution.