ESG: Corp Fin to Scrutinize Climate Change Disclosures
In news that may throw an 11th hour monkey wrench into the finalization of a number of 10-K filings, Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee issued a statement yesterday in which she directed Corp Fin to take a hard look at companies’ climate change disclosures. Here’s an excerpt:
Today, I am directing the Division of Corporation Finance to enhance its focus on climate-related disclosure in public company filings. The Commission in 2010 provided guidance to public companies regarding existing disclosure requirements as they apply to climate change matters.
As part of its enhanced focus in this area, the staff will review the extent to which public companies address the topics identified in the 2010 guidance, assess compliance with disclosure obligations under the federal securities laws, engage with public companies on these issues, and absorb critical lessons on how the market is currently managing climate-related risks. The staff will use insights from this work to begin updating the 2010 guidance to take into account developments in the last decade.
You may recall that a few years ago, the GAO took a look at the SEC’s actions since it issued climate change disclosure guidance. The GAO report expressed some concern with the Staff’s level of training on climate related disclosures, so that may present some challenges for everyone involved in the review process. Those training shortcomings may well have been addressed in the years following the GAO report, but there’s still the matter of the lack of uniformity in climate change disclosures that the GAO report also noted.
Finally, the SEC hasn’t exactly been cracking the disclosure whip on climate change in recent years, so the Staff’s likely to find a fairly target rich environment when it reviews existing climate disclosures. Add all of that up, and, well, in the words of Bette Davis, “fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Now is probably a good time to refresh yourself on the SEC’s 2010 guidance, and to review the other resources in our “Climate Change” Practice Area.
-John Jenkins, TheCorporateCounsel.net February 25, 2021
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