D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to Rehear Conflict Minerals Case

Yesterday, Tuesday, November 18, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed to rehear a case challenging the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) conflict minerals rule.

In April, the panel struck down the portion of the rule forcing companies to declare whether or not their products are “conflict free,” ruling that it violated the First Amendment. The appeals court upheld other aspects of the law, such as requiring companies to check their supply chains to see whether minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) region were being used, and to file reports to the SEC.

Yesterday’s panel decision is potentially at odds with the D.C. Circuit’s full-court ruling in July that country-of-origin labeling for meat does not violate commercial free speech protections. In both cases, the key question regards compelled speech — how far the government can go to force companies to say something that they would not otherwise state.

The D.C. Circuit panel, in granting the rehearing petition, asked the lawyers in supplemental briefs to address what effect, if any, the meat-labeling decision has on the SEC’s conflict minerals rule.


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