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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?
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”