Securities regulators are struggling to craft a rule that sheds light on U.S. companies that use certain African “conflict minerals” but avoids a compliance nightmare that hurts manufacturers.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is six months behind schedule in finalizing the rule that is required by last year’s Dodd-Frank financial oversight law.
The rule, which was tucked into the legislation at the last minute, will require companies to disclose whether they use tantalum, tin, gold or tungsten from the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The agency will be holding a roundtable discussion on Tuesday to hear from companies, human rights organizations and other stakeholders. The SEC has asked for help navigating the mine field of tricky issues such as tracking conflict minerals through the supply chain and “workable” due diligence.
Corporations such as AT&T have criticized the rule as overreaching. They say it could trip up companies who contract with manufacturers and have little, if any, control or knowledge about the origins of minor amounts of minerals that end up in their products.
Fear about running afoul of the pending reporting rule has already prompted some companies such as Apple Inc and Hewlett-Packard Inc to stop sourcing from the region.
“If you go from compliance on through, this starts to set up not only nightmare scenarios, but also costly scenarios that make it difficult for companies to ensure an adequate supply of raw materials,” said Tom Quaadman, the vice president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness.
The SEC issued a draft proposal of the rule in December and hopes to finalize it by the end of the year, according to the agency’s website.