Congress is gearing up for more action against the Iranian mullahs. While Iranian government officials have mused publicly that new sanctions—not just from Washington but also from Europe and the United Nations—will slow their pursuit of nukes, much more pressure could soon be applied.
Preparing for increased sanctions over the past several years, the Iranian mullahs have developed myriad business relationships with Western and Asian companies as an economic buffer. Taking aim at that buffer, two new bills are being designed to use the disinfectant of sunlight to help apply public pressure, and in many cases, give overworked government officials information they can use to shut down activities that run afoul of the law.
The Iran Transparency and Accountability Act, which was introduced last week, would force publicly traded companies to list in their regular filings all business dealings—including the revenues and profits—that their subsidiaries and affiliates have in Iran that could be covered by various sanctions. Already on board as co-sponsors are several top Republicans and Democrats from the Foreign Affairs Committee, but the author is someone in office just three months, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL).
Given the complexity of far-flung multinational conglomerates, sometimes the only people who can document various investments are the corporate attorneys who submit SEC filings. Even then, the paper trail can be murky. But that is why such legislation would greatly advance the ability of government investigators to piece together who owns what and where.
Not all the business dealings from subsidiaries and affiliates covered by the ITA would necessarily be impermissible under the new sanctions legislation, but all listed activities would certainly draw scrutiny from a very important audience: investors.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would be required to establish a website with a searchable database of listed activities, which is a powerful tool for activists and investors alike. “Simply being on that list will encourage companies to behave responsibly and enhance national security,” explains Deutch.
Despite barely having even broken in his office furniture, Deutch has wasted no time continuing the work he started in the Florida Senate. Working with Adam Hasner, the Republican House Majority Leader and one of the most prominent conservatives in the Sunshine state, they successfully passed bipartisan legislation to divest state pension funds from companies that do business with Iran and Sudan. Over $1 billion has been divested, including over $200 million from Royal Dutch Shell alone.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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