The SEC has announced the formation of a "Climate and ESG Task Force" in the Division of Enforcement, led by the Acting Deputy Director of Enforcement. This is only the latest in a series of recent moves by the Biden Administration's SEC to increase its focus on climate-related issues, including regulatory disclosures. For example, earlier this week the SEC issued a press release announcing that among its examination priorities would be a "greater focus on climate-related risk."
However, to date, the SEC has not announced new regulations concerning climate change disclosures. Instead, for the moment, the SEC's enforcement priority appears to be enhancing the enforcement of current climate-related rules. Indeed, the two Republicans serving as SEC Commissioners (Roisman & Peirce) issued a statement yesterday commenting that they "assume that the new initiative is simply a continuation of the work the staff has been doing for more than a decade and not a program to assess public filers' disclosure against any new standards or expectations . . . [since] the Commission has not voted on any new standards or expectations relating to climate-related disclosure."
The drumbeat of news from the SEC concerning climate issues does not appear to be abating--and, indeed, we would expect this pattern to only increase in tempo, as the SEC appears likely to issue new rules and regulations concerning climate-related disclosure (which will naturally be contested). Overall, we would anticipate a significant amount of activity and developments in this space over the coming months--which should be monitored closely by industry and the relevant players in the markets.
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. Consistent with increasing investor focus and reliance on climate and ESG-related disclosure and investment, 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. The initial 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.