The SEC Signals ESG as an Enforcement and Disclosure Priority
Signals from the SEC regarding the growing importance to the Commission of ESG disclosures keep coming, seemingly daily. The recently appointed acting director of the Division of Corporation Finance has long pushed the agency for “relevant, material, decision-useful ESG disclosure.” More recently, the SEC announced the creation and filling of the position of senior policy advisor for climate and ESG in the office of Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee. Other positions in the agency are also being staffed to target ESG.
On March 4, 2021, the SEC 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, 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 initial focus of the task force 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. While the two Republican members of the commission released a joint statement later in the day to temper the commission’s new focus, the SEC has long viewed its own saber rattling as one of the most effective tools it has in affecting market behavior.