Dodd-Frank Undermines the Fight Against Covid
By John Berlau and Seth Carter
As U.S. manufacturers race to produce new vaccines, therapeutics and medical equipment to combat the pandemic, their efforts are impeded by a misguided decade-old government mandate enacted, ironically, for humanitarian purposes. This rule—targeting “conflict minerals”—has shrunk the medical supply chain for components of everything from ventilators to vaccine needles and syringes.
The troublesome mandate is in a last-minute provision inserted into the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul in 2010. That law’s Section 1502 forces manufacturers to disclose if any of their products contain “conflict minerals” mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and nine adjoining countries in Africa. Under the law, companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges must audit their supply chains and disclose if their products contain even traces of the designated minerals—gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten—that might have been mined in areas controlled by warlords.
The provision was sold as protecting Congolese citizens from warlords who profited from the mining and sale of these minerals. Proponents claimed that restricting their use would save lives, and the only costs to Americans would be possibly slight increases in the prices of laptops, cellphones and other “luxury” items that contain these minerals.
They were wrong on two counts. First, the effects of the conflict-minerals mandate proved to be devastating for those it aimed to help. As the Journal reported, manufacturers spent about $709 million and more than six million man-hours attempting to trace their supply chains for conflict minerals in 2014. And 90% of those companies still couldn’t confirm their products were conflict-free. Many decided to avoid the Congo region altogether and source materials from other countries and continents.
When mining dropped off due to Dodd-Frank’s effects, Congolese villages were hit by reductions in education, health care and food supply. In 2014, 70 activists, academics and government officials signed a letter blasting initiatives like the Dodd-Frank provision for “contributing to, rather than alleviating, the very conflicts they set out to address.”
Second, these minerals are also used in medical devices and equipment to dispense drugs and vaccines. AdvaMed, which represents U.S. medical device makers, stated in a 2011 comment to the Securities and Exchange Commission that “it is unavoidable that conflict minerals will be used” in medical devices, and that “as there are currently no substitutes for these minerals, the continued sourcing of these minerals is necessary to ensure the safety and efficacy of medical devices.”
An AdvaMed spokesman says the views expressed in that letter have not changed. Overwhelming evidence confirms that the minerals designated by Dodd-Frank still are essential to medical equipment and devices—including those needed to fight Covid-19.
Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.
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