WASHINGTON -- Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and his new husband don't know if their wedding rings contain a conflict mineral regulated by the landmark financial reform law that bears Frank's name, according to a spokesman for Frank.
The rings are made of black diamonds set in tungsten, which is a precious metal commonly mined in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo. Congolese warlords have channeled profits from metals like tungsten, often used in consumer electronics, to fuel a bloody conflict that has raged in the country for more than a decade.
The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act contained a provision that requires companies to disclose the use of several conflict minerals -- including tungsten -- in their products if they come from the DRC and surrounding countries. Like many of the regulations promulgated by Dodd-Frank, which was signed into law two years ago this Saturday, the final details of the conflict minerals regulation are still being hammered out by federal bureaucracies and industry lobbyists.
"Congressman Frank and his husband do not know the source of the tungsten in their rings -- the provision of the law that would make it easier to find out the source of the metal isn't in effect yet," wrote Harry Gural, Frank's communications director, in an email to The Huffington Post.
A previous report from the Washington Examiner, which originally aired the allegations about Frank and his husband's rings, said that "some tungsten is illegal to use" as a result of Dodd-Frank.
The relevant provision "does not outlaw tungsten, but it requires public companies that are listed on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose the source of the metal," Gural said. "This provision is not in effect yet, but the SEC will release the language of its final rule on the issue at the end of August."
Earlier this month, Frank signed a letter with 58 other members of Congress that urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to finally implement the rule, which has been delayed for over a year. A report from the Government Accountability Office, released on Monday, cited "intense stakeholder interest and input" as a primary reason for the delay. The SEC had over 140 meetings with affected industries and human rights groups, which have engaged in a vigorous lobbying tug-a-war over the provision.
Once implemented, human rights groups like the Enough Project, which has advocated for the conflict minerals provision, hope it will play a small part in ending the violence in the DRC by nudging consumers and companies to stop indirectly supporting the conflict with purchases like wedding rings.
Gural said Frank would try to figure out the source of the tungsten in his rings.
UPDATE: 4:12 p.m. 8/1/12 -- Frank investigated the source of the tungsten in his rings. Below is his response:
In Greg Rosalsky’s article on July 18th, the question was raised about the source of the tungsten from which our wedding rings were made. I asked my Communications Director, Harry Gural, to find out.
The rings were bought from Crown Jewelers a reputable store in New Hampshire, which purchased them from Benchmark Jewelers in Alabama. The craftsman who made the rings says that his company buys tungsten carbide from a firm in Detroit and that he believes the source is a mine in the United States.
It will be easier to determine the source of tungsten when rules are finalized concerning the disclosure of the source of certain minerals. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act mandates that companies listed on U.S. exchanges disclose whether minerals they import are “conflict minerals,” defined as tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold originating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo or an adjoining country that finances or benefits armed groups in those countries. In the future, this reporting requirement will make it possible for people purchasing items made from these metals to know the source with no uncertainty.
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