The conflict minerals disclosure is still required for calendar year 2016. No Executive Order has been issued, nor has SEC eliminated or modified the rule. Acting Chairman Michael Piwowar did direct the Staff to “to reconsider whether the 2014 guidance on the conflict minerals rule is still appropriate and whether any additional relief is appropriate” but no action has been taken as yet. Any action that may be taken would most likely follow standard rule making procedures (proposal publication, public comment, Commission adoption of final rule). Given the timing typically required for the entire process, it is highly unlikely that a rule change will occur before the end of calendar year 2017.
The use of specific product determination wording it still voluntary. The 2014 SEC Guidance remains in effect.
An IPSA is required only when a company voluntarily chooses to use the product determination wording of “DRC Conflict Free” or “Not DRC Conflict Free”. The 2014 SEC Guidance remains in effect. We expect the number of IPSAs to rise slightly for the 2016 filing.
Companies continue to confuse the smelter/refiner location country with the country of origin. Quite simply, the country of origin is where the rocks come out of the ground; the smelter/refiner location country is where those rocks are processed. These are frequently different countries.
Companies also continue to report countries of origin that are not plausible sources of production or reserves (e.g., Hong Kong and UAE). A plausibility review of all countries should be conducted before submitting the Conflict Minerals Report (CMR) to the SEC. We have developed a comprehensive list of plausible countries of origin from a range of sources including USGS, Department of State and experts in each of the metals trade. This is used as part of our smelter/refiner verification services. Contact us if you would like more information.
Six high-risk smelters/refiners are frequently identified by suppliers. Three of these are related to US-sanctioned entities (Fidelity Printers, Sudan Gold Refinery and Central Bank of DPRK), not conflict minerals. Issuers need to determine how they will address these within their conflict minerals disclosure, if at all.
The EU conflict minerals regulation has been finalized and differs from the US regulation in that it applies to companies with more than 500 employees, importers of 3TG, contains applicability thresholds and goes into effect in 2021.
Just over 12,000 comments were submitted to the SEC in response to Acting Chairman Piwowar’s request for comments. More than 11,700 of those comments were form letters and just over half of the remaining 300 were submitted by concerned citizens. Approximately 130 comments were submitted by company representatives, industry groups, Congolese society, NGOs and investors. In our view, opinion reflected in the 130 was split relatively evenly for and against the rule. We noted that several of the comments against the rule cited erroneous and outdated information, specifically concerning costs of rule implementation.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy is holding a public hearing on April 5 titled A Progress Report on Conflict Minerals. Yes we will be there.
The US State Department announced they are “seeking input from stakeholders to inform recommendations of how best to support responsible sourcing of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold.”
Some DC pundits believe that, in the aftermath of the Trump administration and Republican Party failure to succeed on healthcare, Democrats are emboldened to resist efforts to revamp Dodd-Frank. Perhaps, similar to what Mark Twain once wrote, “reports of its death are greatly exaggerated”.