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Bloomberg: SEC Helps Spot Business in Terror-Sponsoring Nations (Update1)

By Jesse Westbrook

June 25 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has made it easier for investors to find out whether companies do business in nations identified as supporting terrorism.

The SEC, in a statement today, said it’s added a search tool to its Web site that lets shareholders search annual reports for “business interests in countries the U.S. Secretary of State has designated state sponsors of terrorism.”

“No investor should ever have to wonder whether his or her investments or retirement savings are indirectly subsidizing a terrorist haven or genocidal state,” SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said in the statement issued in Washington.

The announcement follows a letter last month from Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, who asked Cox whether investors could get “reliable information” about transactions in Iran and Sudan. Lawmakers have become increasingly concerned about companies conducting business in countries that support terrorism and human-rights abuses.

The State Department lists Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria as sponsoring terrorism. A company’s disclosure that it does business in one of those countries does not mean it “directly or indirectly supports terrorism,” the SEC said.

At least 200,000 civilians have died in the Darfur region of Sudan since conflict erupted in 2003, according to the United Nations. The country’s government has been accused of supplying money, weapons and vehicles to mainly Arab militias that have targeted villages in rebel-held areas.

Companies whose 2006 annual reports included a business reference to Sudan included Credit Suisse Group, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and MasterCard Inc.

Credit Suisse said it won’t pursue new business in Sudan and plans to end all relationships with companies and banking clients. Shell, which doesn’t own any oil or gas reserves in Sudan, said it sells fuel to retail and commercial customers. MasterCard said it conducts no business in Sudan, but some financial institutions are licensed to issue its credit cards.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jesse Westbrook in Washington at [email protected] .

Last Updated: June 25, 2007 17:21 EDT

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aUMDefnds9ac

 

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