Changes Needed To Improve Government's Knowledge of OPEC Financial Influence in the United States

EMD-80-23: Published: Dec 19, 1979. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 1979.

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Whether large Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC) investments in the United States enhance the cartel's influence, financial and otherwise, on U.S. policy is a growing national issue. OPEC investment does not appear large and primarily is or has been in real estate and finance. The bulk of OPEC holdings in the United States are or have been portfolio investments, dollars and dollar equivalents.

Financial influence can take forms other than those of conventional investments. Some U.S. universities have received contracts and grants from OPEC countries. But overall, OPEC sources provide relatively little financial support to U.S. schools, and such funds appear to give OPEC members no additional influence over U.S. energy policy. OPEC member's financial involvement in lobbying and public relations, while often conspicuous, remains small in comparison to the expenditures of many other foreign governments. On the whole, OPEC investments do not appear to be a threat to the economy. However, GAO is concerned that U.S. officials might not be aware, on a timely basis, if particular strategic investments were made to influence policy. More current knowledge of OPEC and other foreign investment is needed. Improvements are needed in Federal monitoring activities to improve the Government's awareness of the extent and nature of OPEC financial influence in the United States.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: Unless the Secretary of the Treasury can demonstrate that the costs to both the Government and private business of additional reporting would be excessive, the Treasury should collect data identifying the sector and industry of foreign equity purchases. This additional information would permit timely and regular identification of the areas of the economy into which foreign portfolio investment is flowing. This data should be published at least annually in a format similar to other investment statistics. The Secretary of Commerce should determine how foreign beneficial owners could be better identified under current Bureau of Economic Analysis reporting requirements. The Secretary should carefully examine results of the Department's next benchmark survey to see whether the magnitude of increase in foreign investments in businesses with income under $5 million warrants closer annual monitoring. The Secretary of Energy should transfer the responsibility of the Department's monitoring foreign investments in U.S. energy from the Office of International Affairs to the Energy Information Administration.

    Agency Affected:

 

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