Washington Babylon — April 16, 2009, 10:07 am

Oil Über Alles

Five years ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by a number of major American energy firms operating in Equatorial Guinea. The FCPA bars payments to foreign officials to win business.

It now appears the SEC has dropped the investigation and will not bring charges against the firms involved. This comes from Marathon Oil’s recently released annual report:

By letter dated July 15, 2004, the SEC notified us that it was conducting an inquiry into payments made to the
government of Equatorial Guinea, or to officials and persons affiliated with officials of the government of
Equatorial Guinea. By letter dated February 13, 2009, the SEC further notified us that they completed their
investigation and did not intend to recommend any enforcement action in this matter.

So Marathon and the other energy firms will skate, demonstrating that once again Energy Über Alles is the fundamental core of American foreign policy.

Oh, and what was Marathon’s specific involvement in the case? A holding company controlled by Equatorial Guinea’s dictator, Teodoro Obiang, received a combined stake, worth as much as $29 million, in two joint ventures that Marathon inherited when it bought CMS Energy’s Equatorial Guinea holdings in 2002. Obiang’s holding company put no money down for its initial shares and had received more than $1 million in dividend payments from the two ventures between 2002 and 2003 alone.

How, exactly, did the SEC not construe that as a bribe?

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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