We have been talking about conflict minerals for years.  And, so have our manufacturing clients.  As covered previously in this blog, the conflict minerals laws and regulations are some of the most well known, but least understood laws/regulations that face manufacturers/distributors today.

The stated purpose of conflict mineral laws and regulations were laudable, namely, to prevent companies from engaging in trade that support regional conflicts in the Congo.  As many manufacturers will tell you, whether that stated purpose is achievable is questionable at best.

Year after year, manufacturers struggle to get their suppliers to answer questions about the source of the “conflict minerals” (including gold).  Although the SEC requires that publicly traded companies document their compliance, the burden of compliance often rests on the smaller privately held manufacturers that are in the supply chain.

In 2017, President Trump suggested that he might suspend the regulations, but no executive order was signed.  In late September, an interesting analysis was published by the Washington Post.  The analysis not only suggests that the conflict minerals law has not curbed violence in the Congo, but that the violence has increased.  We will all be watching the administration over the next few years to see if we have seen the end of the conflict minerals law as we know it.

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Photo of Jeffrey White Jeffrey White

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or…

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or family owned manufacturers. For those looking for my detailed law firm bio, click here.

I am often asked why I have focused a large part of my law practice on counseling manufacturers and distributors. As with most things in life, the answer to that question is tied back to experiences I had well before I became a lawyer. My grandfather spent over 30 years working at a steel mill (Detroit Steel Company), including several years in its maintenance department. One of my grandfather’s prime job duties was to make sure that the equipment being used was safe. In his later years, he would apply those lessons learned in every project we did together as he passed on to me his great respect and pride for the manufacturing industry.

Because of these experiences, I not only feel comfortable advising executives in a boardroom, but also can easily transition to the factory floor. My experience has involved a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, nutritional and dietary supplements, and retail and consumer products. While I have extensive experience in litigation (including product liability and class actions), I am extremely proactive about trying to keep my clients out of the courtroom if at all possible. Specifically, I have counseled manufacturers and distributors on issues such as product labeling and warranties, product recalls, workplace safety/OSHA, anti-trust, and vendor relations, among other things. I always look for the business-friendly solution to a problem that may face a manufacturer or distributor and I hope this blog will help advance those efforts.