“Just the FACTs” is a round-up of news stories and information regarding efforts to combat corrupt financial practices, including offshore tax haven abuses, corporate secrecy, and money laundering through the financial system.
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Here is the State of Play
Support for Multinational Tax Transparency Reaches New High as FACT Allies Lead Shareholder Proposal Push
As shareholder resolutions calling on some of the largest U.S.-headquartered multinationals to begin public reporting of tax and operational data on a country-by-country basis came up for votes late last month, FACT member Oxfam America released statistics demonstrating support for public country-by-country reporting (PCbCR) by investors with over $10 trillion in assets under management.
Investors have increasingly represented one important arm of a broad coalition advocating for PCbCR in recent years. Without detailed information on where multinational enterprises (MNEs) are operating and where they are paying (or avoiding) taxes, investors have been left in the dark regarding geopolitical, supply chain, and tax enforcement and reform-related risks to their portfolios. PCBCR can also inform policy makers, civil society, journalists, and other stakeholders about the tax avoidance strategies of multinational corporations.
Last month’s votes represent only the latest in a wave of efforts by investors to require more complete disclosures of this information from large MNEs. Last December, tech giants Microsoft and Cisco faced similar shareholder proposals on PCbCR, garnering support from shareholders representing over $340 billion.
Extractives, Tech Votes Show Progress on Country-by-Country Reporting
First-ever PCbCR resolutions filed with U.S. multinational extractive giants Exxon, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips performed well on their initial outings last month, with 14% of outstanding shareholders supporting the Exxon and Chevron proposals, and 17% supporting the ConocoPhillips proposal.
Meanwhile, a similar proposal at Amazon garnered support from 21.4% of independent shareholders – a modest increase on the measure’s previous outing last year. All four proposals requested each respective corporation to begin issuing PCbCR reports in line with international best practice standards developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
FACT Recommends Critical Improvements to Proposed Tax Reporting Standards Updates
On the eve of the votes at Exxon and Chevron, FACT submitted comments to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) on its proposed revisions to Topic 740, which governs income tax disclosures by U.S. businesses. Though FASB’s proposed revisions – which would require publication of a limited set of tax data on a jurisdictional basis by public multinational business entities, among other disclosures – represent a meaningful step forward on tax transparency, FACT’s comment stressed the need for true PCbCR requirements in order to best inform investors about the tax-related risks associated with particular companies.
Within the scope of FASB’s proposal, FACT recommended requiring disclosure of additional information pertaining to income, revenues, and effective tax rates, disaggregated on a jurisdictional basis. The comment also suggested improvements to the quantitative threshold mechanism for disaggregated reporting of income taxes paid contained within the proposal.
Australia Poised to Vote on Public Country-by-Country Reporting this Month
While shareholder votes move forward, and as FASB contemplates final revisions to its tax disclosure proposal, Australia is set to potentially vote on proposed legislation mandating PCbCR for large multinationals during the upcoming parliamentary sitting starting June 13.
Australia’s draft PCbCR legislation represents by far the most complete tax transparency regime to be advanced by any major jurisdiction to date, and is likely to capture a number of U.S.-headquartered multinationals in its reporting requirements.
Last month, FACT submitted comments broadly supporting the legislation, noting that “By capturing large foreign-parented MNEs in sufficiently fulsome PCbCR requirements, the (Australian) government has an opportunity to lead a sea-change in global tax transparency, establishing a strong standard by which subsequent regimes may be measured and incentivizing other jurisdictions to take complementary actions.”
Latest from FACT
On May 30, FACT submitted comments to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) recommending key changes to its proposed revisions to income tax disclosures for public business entities. While recognizing that the proposed revisions represent an improvement on current disclosure requirements, FACT called on FASB to include additional disaggregated information on income, revenues, and effective tax rates in its final update, among other recommendations.
A May 11 Senate hearing on the tax-dodging schemes of U.S. pharmaceutical companies outlined the need for greater tax transparency from large multinationals.
Meanwhile, in yet another indication of mounting investor concern over the aggressive tax practices of large corporations, FACT member Oxfam America released new statistics documenting the support of investors with over $10T in assets under management for public country-by-country reporting requirements.
FACT in the News
FACT’s comments to FASB on its proposed revisions to income tax disclosures for U.S. businesses were quoted in coverage by Bloomberg law’s Nicola M. White. While some business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed FASB’s draft tax transparency measures, others, such as MFS Investment Management and Norges Bank Investment Management, wrote in favor of the proposal.
Per FACT’s comments: “The proposed revisions to rate reconciliation and income taxes paid disclosures that are the subject of this comment represent an imperfect step towards greater transparency for U.S. filers.”
Read a new op-ed from FACT-member Transparency International US’s Scott Greytak on the need to extend basic anti-money laundering obligations to U.S. attorneys.
“Who was this mastermind, who’d helped move millions in dirty money across the world? Was it a Russian operative, covertly channeling illicit transactions from a bunker in Belgorod?
No. It was a New York City lawyer, sitting at his desk. And if the US’s largest association of lawyers, the American Bar Association, continues to have it its way, every lawyer in America will remain exempt from the US’s most important anti-money laundering law.”
FACT executive director Ian Gary is quoted extensively in coverage of growing investor demand for PCbCR by Law360’s Natalie Olivo.
“I think investors are looking at this from a very bottom-line, material point of view,” said Gary. “Shareholders would like to be able to make their own assessments of the level of risk they’re willing to accept in the companies they invest in.”
Ian Gary was also quoted in coverage of Australia’s proposed PCbCR legislation by Proactive Investors’ Phoebe Shields.
“The introduction of this legislation in Australia is a game-changer in the fight for a fairer, more transparent international tax system,” said Gary. “Understanding where multinational corporations are doing business and paying – or not paying – taxes is a vital step towards ending the era of corporate tax avoidance that has robbed governments worldwide of much-needed revenues and exacerbated global inequality.”
Recent and Upcoming Events
June 8: FACT Community Meeting & Happy Hour!
Join the FACT team in-person or online at 3:30 pm on June 8 for our June Community Meeting, followed by drinks and food on the Open Gov Hub terrace for in-person attendees! Email Thomas Georges at firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP for this mid-year check-in and celebration of recent and upcoming progress on FACT’s agenda!
June 23: NGO Registration Deadline for UNCAC COSP 10
NGOs interested in participating at the 10th session of the Conference of the States Parties (COSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) are encouraged to apply by June 23. The UNCAC COSP will be held this December in Atlanta, GA, and will focus on building States parties’ capacity and cooperation to achieve the convention’s anti-corruption objectives.
About the FACT Coalition