On Aug. 22, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued rules requiring U.S.-listed extractive companies such as Exxon Mobil to publish more information on payments they make to governments around the world. The idea, labeled “publish what you pay” by activists, is meant to increase transparency and ensure that revenues from mining and drilling in developing countries go toward government services and poverty reduction—rather than to buy yachts and fast cars for the likes of Teodorin Obiang, the profligate son of Equatorial Guinea’s petro-dictator.
The regulations, mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act, are a great step forward. But it isn’t just developing countries that need greater transparency about how money moves between the public treasury and private companies. It’s long past time for the government of the United States to open up its books as well.