As the Russian invasion of Ukraine extends into a second month and consumers continue to suffer at the pump, a new report from Friends of the Earth, BailoutWatch and Public Citizen highlights how the largest U.S. oil and gas companies are profiting. The report draws on oil and gas company securities filings to highlight that the companies have authorized spending a combined $45 billion for purchasing and retiring their own stock, directly enriching insiders and other shareholders.
The analysis comes a day after lawmakers wrote to Big Oil executives demanding a stop to stock repurchases and a day before six Big Oil CEOs are scheduled to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Although oil companies have blamed high gas prices on modest environmental reforms by the Biden Administration, the vast majority of oil executives are curtailing production to satisfy demands from Wall Street, according to survey data from the Dallas Federal Reserve.
The report finds:
- In the first two months of 2022, seven companies’ boards authorized the repurchase of $24.35 billion in stock — a 15% increase over all of the buybacks authorized in 2021. Six of those decisions came in February 2022, after Russian warmongering lifted stock prices. The total since the start of 2021 is $45.6 billion.
- More than half the companies boosted their dividends, often extravagantly, in January and February. Of the 11 companies raising their dividends, nine were increases of more than 15% and four were increases of more than 40%. Eleven companies have increased their payouts by at least 100%, some from zero, since the first quarter of 2021.
- Six companies have begun paying additional dividends on top of their routine quarterly payments, including by implementing new variable dividends based on company earnings. So far in 2022, these companies have started paying out an initial $3 billion in special windfall dividends.
“This is a master class in war profiteering. Oil and gas companies are feeding off humanitarian disaster and consumer suffering in order to reward Wall Street,” said Lukas Ross, climate and energy program manager at Friends of the Earth. “Oil companies drove us into a climate crisis and are now price-gouging us to extinction. Congress and President Biden must take action by passing a windfall profits tax to rein in Big Oil’s cash grab.”
“Big Oil is living the second half of their unspoken mantra ‘socialize losses, privatize gains,’” said Chris Kuveke of BailoutWatch. “Two years after winning multi-billion dollar bailouts from the Trump Administration, these newly flush companies are pocketing billions from an international crisis, and they don’t care how it affects regular Americans.”
“Big Oil executives are reaping windfall profits while accelerating the climate crisis and sticking consumers with the bill,” said Alan Zibel, a Public Citizen researcher. “The oil industry and their allies on Capitol Hill falsely claim that the Biden administration’s acceptance of mainstream climate science is stifling investment in the domestic oil industry. But the industry’s actions show that they are intently focused on funneling cash to their shareholders rather than lowering prices for consumers.”