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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More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

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How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

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