Exxon blocking U.S. progress on energy transparency: watchdog chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N is hindering a push for transparency in the energy sector by refusing to share U.S. tax information as promised, a global watchdog said on Monday.

A sign is seen in front of the Exxonmobil Baton Rouge Refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 6, 2015. REUTERS/Lee Celano

The rebuff by Exxon may “endanger U.S. compliance” with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), said Clare Short, who leads the program.

Exxon was one of 30 energy companies that failed to share U.S.-specific tax information for a report released last week by EITI, which audits payments made by companies for drilling or mining.

Exxon spokesman William F. Holbrook responded in an email on Monday that “it was deemed premature to report U.S. income taxes” before a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission meeting on disclosures due on Friday.

The SEC is expected to outline how energy companies can satisfy a provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms by reporting what they earn from each plot of land they lease.

Several EITI board members said on Monday nothing stands in the way of Exxon and the other energy firms sharing tax information while the SEC deliberates.

“These companies can disclose whatever they want,” said Neil Brown, who sits on the U.S. EITI board and was an aide to former Republican Senator Richard Lugar.

By supporting EITI, energy companies and resource-rich nations may boast that they uphold global transparency standards. Exxon has had a place on the EITI board for nearly a decade.

Exxon’s refusal to share tax information is out of step with its commitment to openness said Daniel Kaufmann, president of the Natural Resources Governance Institute.

“It’s totally inconsistent,” said Kaufmann, who faulted Exxon at an October EITI board meeting.

President Barack Obama extended U.S. support to EITI in 2011, but the group cannot complete its work before Exxon and others share their tax payments, Short said.

“We expect board members to lead by example,” she said in a

statement to Reuters.

The U.S. corporate income tax rate is 35 percent but few multinational companies pay that because due to many tax breaks and subsidies.

For an estimate of the effective corporate tax rate for several leading energy companies that declined to share that information with EITI click here:

Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh