Risk & Compliance

New SEC Task Force to Police Climate Disclosure

“Climate risks and sustainability are critical issues for the investing public and our capital markets,” Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee says.
Matthew HellerMarch 5, 2021

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has unveiled a new Climate and ESG Task Force in another move to step up enforcement of disclosure of climate risks.

The task force will “develop initiatives to proactively identify ESG-related misconduct” and 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 SEC said in a news release.

“Climate risks and sustainability are critical issues for the investing public and our capital markets,” Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee said.

As The Hill reports, the task force is “the SEC’s latest step toward ramping up its enforcement of climate-related rules and oversight of the investment industry’s response to several rising trends.”

“Democratic lawmakers, environmentalists and advocates for tougher financial rules have also called on the SEC to boost scrutiny of climate disclosure compliance after years of neglect under chairmen from both parties,” The Hill added.

The commission announced last week it will review climate-related disclosures as part of an effort to update guidelines that are more than a decade old. It also appointed Satyam Khanna in February to serve as senior policy advisor for Climate and ESG.

According to the SEC, the task force’s “initial focus will be to identify any material gaps or misstatements in issuers’ disclosure of climate risks under existing rules.”

Two Republican commissioners suggested the move was premature.

“Wouldn’t it be more prudent for us to await the results of the Corporation Finance staff’s latest review of climate change-related disclosure and the Examinations staff’s climate- or ESG-related findings in this new exam cycle before allocating resources to an ESG-specific Enforcement initiative?” Hester Peirce and Elad Roisman asked.

But John Kostyack, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said that “Decades of deception in the fossil fuel industry have cheated investors of critical information and left our economy woefully unprepared to address climate change.”

“We look forward to working with whistleblowers and others fighting climate-related corruption to ensure that this task force succeeds with its critical mission,” he added.