RIL has been expanding its presence in global markets over the years, including in the US, and has interests in businesses ranging from energy, polyester and retail to telecom. BGR has also been a registered lobbyist for the Indian government for several years.
Indian corporate giant Reliance Industries Ltd has resumed lobbying among US lawmakers through a new lobbyist for advocating its position on the “US economic trade sanctions policies”. Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) had earlier terminated its lobbying activity in US in January 2013 after engaging with the US lawmakers for nearly four years for its business activities and other causes through its registered lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers LLC (BGR) at that time. According to the new ‘lobbying report’ filings made with the US Senate, RIL has now engaged Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP, which filed a ‘lobbying registration’ report on behalf of its client RIL on April 26. According to the filing, the effective date of registration is February 2, 2019.
The registration filing has been followed up with the first quarter lobbying report filed by Eversheds Sutherland on behalf of RIL on May 29, 2019. In the filing, the lobbyist has disclosed total income of USD 140,000 from RIL for lobbying activities for the three-month period ended March 31, 2019. It has disclosed “US economic sanctions policies” as the specific lobbying issue for the period, while the US Department of State has been mentioned as the department contacted for the purpose.
On its website, Eversheds Sutherland describes itself as “an international top 15 law practice helping a global client base ranging from small and mid-sized businesses to the largest multinationals solve their biggest challenges and reach their business goals”. Lobbying in government departments and other institutions is a legal activity in the US, but all registered lobbying firms are required to make a disclosure every quarter about the payments received by them, as also the details of their lobbying activities. The exact trigger for RIL to engage in lobbying on this issue could not be immediately ascertained. The US had recently ruled out giving exemption from punitive sanctions to any country buying oil from Iran. In October 2018, RIL had said it had halted import of Iranian crude ahead of the US sanctions, which were re-imposed in November that year.
In April this year, RIL said it did not violate the US sanctions on Venezuela and had purchased crude originating from the Latin American nation from companies such as Russia’s Rosneft in full knowledge of the US authorities. US imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela in late January 2019 with a view to curb the country’s crude exports and put pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step down. Prior to that in March, RIL had said it had stopped all oil exports to US sanctions-hit Venezuela and will not resume sales until sanctions were lifted. RIL, whose twin refineries at Jamnagar in Gujarat were major importers of Venezuelan crude oil, has reduced purchases by about a third.
The company has investments in US shale gas projects and trades fuel in North America. RIL began lobbying in US through leading lobbying firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers LLC (BGR), in January 2009 for its business activities and other causes and had spent nearly USD 2 million (over Rs 10 crore) in about four years. However, the company had put its lobbying activities on hold here for at least five quarters before terminating its lobby registration in January 2013. RIL has been expanding its presence in global markets over the years, including in the US, and has interests in businesses ranging from energy, polyester and retail to telecom. BGR has also been a registered lobbyist for the Indian government for several years.
According to the latest filing, the Indian government paid BGR an amount of USD 180,000 towards lobbying activities in the first quarter of 2019 and the amount has been the same for several past quarters. BGR has mentioned “bilateral US-India relations” as the specific lobbying issue in its latest filing on behalf of ‘Republic of India’, while those contacted during the latest quarter include the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, the Department of Commerce, the Department of State and the US Trade Representative.