Press Release / Oct. 23, 2012

Gutless companies launch lawsuit to avoid coming clean on conflict minerals

Global Witness today condemned the attempt by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to use a lawsuit to overturn a law that compels companies to disclose whether they use conflict minerals.

It emerged yesterday that the industry pressure groups are attempting to sue the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the rule accompanying Section 1502 of the Dodd Frank Act. The law and the rule, issued in August, are designed to prevent vicious rebels, militia and military units in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from financing their activities via the trade in tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. The area’s civilian population has suffered horrific human rights violations at the hands of all the warring parties.

“This is a blatant attempt to undermine the democratic process by a group of self-interested and irresponsible companies and the Court of Appeals should strike it down without delay,” said Global Witness Director Patrick Alley. “If the companies behind this were remotely honest they would admit their primary interest is being allowed to continue making money at the expense of Congolese citizens.”

In the application they filed with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals last Friday, the Chamber and NAM request that the SEC rule issued on 22 August “be modified or set aside in whole or in part”. The suit appears designed to help their members dodge the law’s requirement to come clean about what is in their supply chains and the impacts their use of minerals has on people in Congo.

It is imperative that responsible companies take a stand against the lawsuit, both through public statements and via rapid implementation of the regulation.

“The companies financing this action that the Chamber and NAM are fronting should have the courage to say who they are,” said Patrick Alley. “If they really thought this was a case of unwarranted regulation that costs jobs, why wouldn’t they publicly identify themselves with such a noble cause? Why the need to hide behind corporate lobby groups?”

The SEC rule for Dodd Frank Section 1502 was originally scheduled to be published in April 2011. However, aggressive lobbying and legal threats by the Chamber and NAM resulted in a severe delay and watering down of the regulation that finally emerged. The new lawsuit is the latest in a catalogue of efforts by unaccountable companies and their lobbyist proxies to thwart efforts by elected lawmakers to address an urgent humanitarian crisis.

The latest round of fighting in eastern Congo has been triggered by a new rebellion known as the M23, which is led by indicted alleged war criminal Bosco Ntaganda and backed by the Rwandan government. Bosco Ntaganda, a career warlord, made a fortune trading conflict minerals in the years leading up to his latest insurrection. According to UN investigators, the M23 has also been receiving financial support from minerals traders in Rwanda. Since April this year the fighting has displaced nearly half a million people.


Contact: Washington DC – Jana Morgan, +1 703 795 8542
London – Mike Davis, +44 7872 600 860