This post was originally published on Extract-A-Fact on September 28, 2016
By Tommy Morrison, Research Assistant, Publish What You Pay - United States
The Aleph search tool, built and maintained by OpenOil, is a vast database of public documents filed by oil, gas, and mining companies in some of the biggest legal jurisdictions in the world. Aleph gives us access to millions of documents all in one place that we can search by content, but finding the exact information we want can seem intimidating. The folks at OpenOil have provided some good resources for getting started with Aleph; find them here and here. In this blog post, I will help make navigating this system even easier by providing a step by step guide on how to automatically have the information you are most interested in delivered from Aleph straight to your inbox.
At PWYP-US, we are particularly interested in (and excited about) the payments to governments reports that oil, gas, and mining companies listed on EU stock exchanges have recently disclosed. Major companies like BP, Shell, and BHP Billiton have all published reports for 2015. As more and more reports come online, there is a possibility that some may slip through the cracks. Luckily, Aleph has a search tool that can let you know when any new filings become available.
The first step is to navigate to aleph.openoil.net and register for an account.
Once that is done, on the home page click on “Alerts” in the upper right-hand corner. You should see this screen:
Click “Add” to set up a new alert.
You now have two fields to populate, “Query” and “Label”. The “Query” field is what Aleph will use to search the database. Aleph has some advanced searching capabilities, which you can read about in depth here. We are going to use the composite querying function.
- Using AND we can search for specific combinations of words or phrases that appear in a document:
- Search Nigeria AND “Royal Dutch Shell” and view the number of results
- Using OR we can search for documents that contain at least one of a set of words or phrases:
- Search Nigeria OR “Royal Dutch Shell” and compare with the number of results from before
- We can even combine AND and OR with parentheses for more advanced queries:
- Search “Royal Dutch Shell” AND (Nigeria OR Angola OR Spain) to get results for documents containing:
- “Royal Dutch Shell” and Nigeria
- “Royal Dutch Shell” and Angola
- “Royal Dutch Shell” and Spain
Setting up an alert for new payments to governments reports
If you want to find documents related to payments to governments reports, searching “payments to governments” is a little too imprecise. We need to get more specific . The payments to governments reports are mandated by law, and as such, have a specific form name in each legal jurisdiction.
So, let’s construct a query that will cover all of these: "Article L. 225-102-3" OR "DTR 4.3A" OR "Section 1504" OR "13q-1" Add that to “Query” under your new alert and give it a name under “Label”. Select whether you want to be updated daily or weekly, then hit submit.
- In the UK, it is “DTR 4.3A”
- In France, it is “Article L. 225-102-3”
- In the US, it will be “13q-1” or “Section 1504”*
And there you have it!
Aleph will now automatically update you via email on any new documents that fit the conditions you outlined in your query. Currently, the London Stock Exchange is the only jurisdiction from which Aleph pulls filings that require payments to government reports. However, the first mandatory disclosure reports will be released in Canada next year, and in the United States beginning in 2018. Including Section 1504 and the French article number may mean you get notifications that don’t contain actual mandatory disclosure reports, but making your search somewhat broad ensures that if a company filing, an Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative report, or contract mentions any of the search terms, you will be notified.
*Note: Running this query we noted that using "13q-1" occasionally returned results that were not relevant. However, these should be minimal, and including "13q-1" ensures a more robust query than only using "Section 1504".
Tommy Morrison is a Research Assistant at PWYP-US, follow us on Twitter @pwypusa