The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced the creation of a Climate and ESG* Task Force in the Division of Enforcement. The task force will be led by Kelly L. Gibson, the Acting Deputy Director of Enforcement, who will oversee a Division-wide effort, with 22 members drawn from the SEC’s headquarters, regional offices, and Enforcement specialized units. The Climate and ESG Task Force will develop initiatives to proactively identify ESG-related misconduct. The task force will also coordinate the effective use of Division resources, including through the use of sophisticated data analysis to mine and assess information across registrants, to identify potential violations.
What this means, in short, is that things are getting tougher for companies that are part of the global warming crisis or want to profit from investors who wish to support firms that are run on an environmentally friendly basis. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria are an “increasingly popular way for investors to evaluate companies in which they might want to invest,” said the SEC. In the financial markets, mutual funds, brokerage firms, and robo-advisors now offer products that employ ESG criteria. ESG criteria can also help investors avoid companies that might pose a greater financial risk due to their environmental or other practices. (AutoInformed on BorgWarner Cops SEC Plea for Materially Misstating Financial Statements Concerning Asbestos Litigation)
The initial SEC focus will be to identify any material gaps or misstatements in issuers’ disclosure of climate risks under existing rules. The task force will also analyze disclosure and compliance issues relating to investment advisers’ and funds’ ESG strategies. Its work will complement the agency’s other initiatives in this area, including the recent appointment of Satyam Khanna as a Senior Policy Advisor for Climate and ESG. As an integral component of the agency’s efforts to address these risks to investors, the task force will work closely with other SEC Divisions and Offices, including the Divisions of Corporation Finance, Investment Management, and Examinations.
“Climate risks and sustainability are critical issues for the investing public and our capital markets,” said Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee. “The task force announced today will play an important role in enhancing and coordinating the efforts of the Division of Enforcement, the Office of the Whistleblower, and other parts of the agency to bolster the efforts of the Commission as a whole on these vital matters.”
In addition, the Climate and ESG Task Force will evaluate and pursue tips, referrals, and whistleblower complaints on ESG-related issues, and provide expertise and insight to teams working on ESG-related matters across the Division. ESG related tips, referrals and whistleblower complaints can be submitted here.
*Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria are an increasingly popular way for investors to evaluate companies they might want to invest in.