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SEC Continues to Prioritize ESG with Creation of New Task Force


Alyse Greer, PLI Staff Reporter

On March 4, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced the formation of a task force aimed at identifying climate and ESG-related misconduct. Located within the Division of Enforcement, the 22-person team will be led by Kelly L. Gibson, the Acting Deputy Director of Enforcement.

This move, according to the Press Release, is “[c]onsistent with increasing investor focus and reliance on climate and ESG-related disclosure and investment.”

“Climate risks and sustainability are critical issues for the investing public and our capital markets,” said Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee. “The task force announced today will play an important role in enhancing and coordinating the efforts of the Division of Enforcement, the Office of the Whistleblower, and other parts of the agency to bolster the efforts of the Commission as a whole on these vital matters.”

The announcement comes one day after the SEC Division of Examinations stated that its 2021 examination priorities would include a “greater focus on climate-related risks” in an effort to “[integrate] climate and ESG considerations into the agency’s broader regulatory framework.”

The full press release is available below:

SEC Announces Enforcement Task Force Focused on Climate and ESG Issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

2021-42

Washington D.C., March 4, 2021 —

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. Its work will complement the agency’s other initiatives in this area, including the recent appointment of Satyam Khanna as a Senior Policy Advisor for Climate and ESG. As an integral component of the agency’s efforts to address these risks to investors, the task force will work closely with other SEC Divisions and Offices, including the Divisions of Corporation Finance, Investment Management, and Examinations.

“Climate risks and sustainability are critical issues for the investing public and our capital markets,” said Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee. “The task force announced today will play an important role in enhancing and coordinating the efforts of the Division of Enforcement, the Office of the Whistleblower, and other parts of the agency to bolster the efforts of the Commission as a whole on these vital matters.”

“Proactively addressing emerging disclosure gaps that threaten investors and the market has always been core to the SEC’s mission,” said Acting Deputy Director of Enforcement Kelly L. Gibson, who will lead the task force. “This task force brings together a broad array of experience and expertise, which will allow us to better police the market, pursue misconduct, and protect investors.”

In addition, the Climate and ESG Task Force will evaluate and pursue tips, referrals, and whistleblower complaints on ESG-related issues, and provide expertise and insight to teams working on ESG-related matters across the Division. ESG related tips, referrals and whistleblower complaints can be submitted here.


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