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Senator Elizabeth Warren sent SEC Chair Gary Gensler a little note last week – just before Valentine’s Day. In this age of partisanship, you would expect the Senator to be supportive of Chair Gensler – both of whom are Democrats. But alas, this time – well, not so much. The Senator roasted Chair Gensler over the delay in publishing a promised draft rule on climate disclosure (which, by the way, does not have a specific legislative mandate or deadline):

“These delays are unwarranted and unacceptable, and violate the commitment, which you made seven months ago, ‘to develop a mandatory climate risk disclosure rule proposal for the Commission’s consideration by the end of’ 2021. And they are made worse by the fact that they precede the publication of even the draft rule, which will only begin ‘SEC’s drawn-out rule-making process.’.. Every day of continued delay means that the SEC is failing to meet its mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitating capital formation.”

She continues:

“I am also concerned about the reasons for this latest delay, which reportedly center around ‘how much information the agency can force companies to divulge without losing an almost certain legal challenge brought by Washington’s business lobby or a Republican-led state,’ and ‘whether auditors should sign off on the disclosures, ensuring they would be vetted by the same independent watchdogs who review corporations’ financial statements.’ The SEC has a responsibility to put in the place the strongest rule to ensure that investors are adequately informed about the threats the climate crisis poses to their investments and the broader economy. Having the Commissioners litigate against themselves and issue a watered-down proposal is at odds with that responsibility, and I urge you to act quickly and to release the strongest requirements possible to begin the formal rulemaking process.”

The letter concludes:

“These ongoing delays are not acceptable. I therefore ask that, no later than February 23, 2022, you provide me with (1) a clear timeline for publication of the climate disclosure rule and the rulemaking process that will be kicked off with its release; (2) a summary of any concerns regarding the agency’s statutory authority to impose a climate disclosure rule; and (3) a staff-level briefing on the development of the rule and the rulemaking and implementation process.”

Ouch – that’s gonna leave a mark. The good news is that next week we will likely see Gensler’s response and hopefully have clarity on the status and timing of the proposal. Stay tuned and help yourself to some candy while we wait.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile