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Oxfam sues SEC over oil payments disclosure rule

Oxfam America filed a lawsuit against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday for failing to enact a new rule requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments.

The SEC set a March 2015 deadline for its first draft on the transparency rules. But the anti-poverty group, Oxfam, has urged the SEC for months to speed up the process, expressing frustration with the delayed rule.

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Oxfam says it has waited long enough, and wants the rule finalized by year's end. 

"With transactions worth billions of dollars in oil, gas and mining projects taking place in some of the poorest, most corrupt and highest-risk countries in the world, citizens and investors simply cannot wait any longer," said Ian Gary, a senior policy manager with Oxfam America. 

“The SEC should follow its congressional mandate and allow the U.S. to resume its leadership on transparency by issuing public, company and project-level disclosure requirements with no exemptions,” Gary added.

A rewrite of Section 1504 is mandatory under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and has been the center of a lobbying and political battle between oil companies and human rights groups. 

Gary added that if the SEC finishes the rules "promptly," fulfilling the congressional mandate, then the lawsuit could be dropped.

"We continue to hope that they will act to issue strong rules, and then we will gladly drop this lawsuit,” Gary said. 

The lawsuit comes two months after 58 House Democrats urged the commission to speed up its timeline for proposing the new rule.