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Ceres Scorecard on US Financial Regulator Action on Climate

Ceres published their 2022 Climate Risk Scorecard Assessing U.S. Financial Regulator Action on Climate Financial Risk. Of course, we all know about SEC climate disclosure proposal, but Ceres found

“… that nine agencies collectively have taken more than 230 public actions that will help address climate-related financial risk. Notably, all nine agencies have publicly acknowledged climate as a risk to the financial system and begun efforts to obtain the data necessary to assess this risk. In another significant step, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a proposed rule that would require mandatory climate disclosure from public companies. Critically, for the first time in over 15 years, the OCC, FDIC, and Federal Reserve (Fed) proposed an update to their Community Reinvestment Act regulations, including climate resiliency and disaster preparedness within the definition of community development activities.”

The scorecard then goes on to rate the progress of each action, summarized as follows:

  • All nine agencies have publicly affirmed climate as a systemic risk to the financial system.
  • All nine agencies have made progress in identifying the data needed to evaluate these risks and develop a plan to procure additional necessary data.
  • For those agencies with authority that encompasses the needs of financially vulnerable communities, there is greater variation in progress.
  • Each agency has designated staff to focus on climate-related risks, with all but one appointing senior staff to lead those teams.
  • There is substantially less progress on improving climate-related disclosures, with only one agency affirmatively incorporating disclosures into its policies, and four taking no action.
  • Several agencies have begun to incorporate climate risk into their supervisory activities.

Ceres concludes that “Despite these significant advances of the past 14 months, U.S. federal regulators still lag far behind some of their global counterparts and what science demands.”

Our take: If anyone is unconvinced that the Biden administration is serious about advancing the regulation of climate risk in the U.S. financial system, the report may serve to change that. It is clear climate has permeated regulatory priorities. Ceres’ suggestion that U.S. regulators fall in line with their international counterparts may not gain much traction though. We have our own system, guardrails and legal matters that shape our policies – as we have seen with the SEC’s climate disclosure proposal.

Los Angeles May Ban New Gas Stations

The Hill reported that the city of Los Angeles is considering dramatic moves to encourage residents to shift gears to EVs:

Los Angeles officials are considering a ban on the construction of new gas stations as part of a push to curb the development of fossil fuel infrastructure.

“We are ending oil drilling in Los Angeles. We are moving to all-electric new construction. And we are building toward fossil fuel-free transportation,” LA council member Paul Koretz (D) told The Guardian, referring to other recent policy decisions.

“Our great and influential city, which grew up around the automobile, is the perfect place to figure out how to move off the gas-powered car,” Koretz said.

If LA does move forward with these plans, it would become the biggest city to ban new gas stations…

A similar ordinance was passed in Petaluma, California last year, but LA is far larger (Petaluma has about 16 gas stations in operation serving about 60,600 residents) and the precedent would have greater impact – possibly encouraging other progressive cities to do the same.

Our take: This move by the LA City Council is still under consideration and I haven’t seen a draft of the proposal. It would likely have a phase in period and follow Petaluma’s lead in providing support to existing gas stations for installing EV charging stations and hydrogen fuel cell stations.

Landscape of ESG Risk in Supply Chains

A new analysis from Latham & Watkins provides an overview of ESG risk in company global supply chains. The analysis points out that

… businesses increasingly are being held to account for ESG issues not only within their direct control, but also throughout their value chains. Often complex and transnational in nature, value chains, particularly the more attenuated aspects, can pose unique — and even hidden — ESG risks. If companies do not identify and manage these risks, they may result in reputational, operational, and economic losses.

In addition to US action on climate disclosures, Latham covers regulatory developments that will likely impact companies directly as well as through their suppliers relating to:

  • sustainability claims;
  • human rights;
  • UK and EU actions on climate, human rights and environmental due diligence and sustainability disclosures; and
  • Action in Asia on regulating ESG ratings and climate disclosures

Our take: I agree with Latham’s summary of the matter:

“Failure to take into account these factors can lead to operational challenges, including supply chain disruptions, as well as regulatory scrutiny, corporate liability, shareholder and securities litigation risks, and significant brand and reputational damage. At the same time, businesses may be able to increase their resilience and versatility by thinking creatively about the risks and opportunities within their value chains.”

NOAA Proposes Forced Labor Regulations in Fishing Industry

Yesterday, NOAA announced they “proposed new measures to enhance and strengthen our fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.” The proposal (not yet available) includes adding ” ‘forced labor’ to the scope of activities subject to identification when implementing the [U.S. Moratorium Protection] Act… The Act is a key engagement tool NOAA uses to identify, consult with, and certify nations and entities whose fishing vessels are engaged in IUU fishing, bycatch of protected marine life, or shark catch on the high seas.”

Our take: We will be on the look out for the publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. It will be interesting to see if NOAA follows the lead of Customs and Border Protection’s Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Operational Guidance in evidence requirements for determining if forced labor is not present in seafood supply chains.

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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