If there were any doubts the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the Biden administration will increase its expectations of public companies to assess and disclose climate change-related risks, they were laid to rest Wednesday.
Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee said in a statement she has ordered the agency’s Division of Corporate Finance to “to enhance its focus on climate-related disclosure in public company filings.” Lee said the Division will begin reviewing the SEC’s 2010 guidance on climate change disclosure “to take into account developments in the last decade.”
“Now more than ever, investors are considering climate-related issues when making their investment decisions. It is our responsibility to ensure that they have access to material information when planning for their financial future.”
Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee
Lee indicated the move to update the guidance on climate-related disclosures is among “immediate steps the agency can take on the path to developing a more comprehensive framework that produces consistent, comparable, and reliable climate-related disclosures.”
“Now more than ever, investors are considering climate-related issues when making their investment decisions. It is our responsibility to ensure that they have access to material information when planning for their financial future,” Lee said.
Taken in combination with the recent announcement the SEC has created a senior policy advisor position on climate change and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues, it is becoming clear the new priorities of the agency are being set.
The moves lay the groundwork for more substantive change to be pursued by Gary Gensler, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the SEC. Gensler’s confirmation hearing before the Senate is scheduled for next Tuesday, March 2. If Gensler’s nomination is confirmed by the Senate, the SEC would have a 3-2 tilt toward Democrats and would be in position to implement Biden’s agenda.
In addition to climate change and ESG, the SEC under Gensler will also pursue ways to promote more diversity in corporate governance, experts say.