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Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance Viewpoints

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Read about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings, including a discussion of their utility, methodologies used to calculate them, and key takeaways for executives, financial professionals, and other market participants concerning the use of ESG scores.

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Read about the SEC’s long-awaited final rule concerning climate disclosures, entitled “The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors,” which mandates disclosures of climate-related information by US capital markets participants.

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ESG is today’s political football. As Americans take sides and root for their home teams, companies find themselves at the crux of a battlefield that pitches corporate values, strategy, and reputation against a shifting and dynamic legal and political landscape. This informative panel discussed practical strategies in-house counsel may employ to tackle ESG-related challenges.

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Public companies need to consider regulatory, legal, market, and ESG-related developments in preparing for their fiscal year-end filings with the SEC and their annual shareholder meetings. In an in-depth memorandum, Mintz attorneys discuss the SEC’s new cybersecurity disclosure rule, recent trends in reverse stock splits, and the SEC’s disclosure requirements for Rule 10b5-1 trading plans and insider trading policies, and other emerging issues affecting public companies.

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Much ink has been spilled about ESG laws and regulations targeted at the investment of public funds, and rightfully so.  Yet, there has been little discussion of novel requirements imposed on banks that simply hold state or local funds as depository institutions.

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From July 2021 through March 2023, the SEC sent reporting entities more than 100 letters seeking information on climate change topics and nearly 170 letters concerning greenwashing. In an in-depth analysis, Mintz attorneys identify and analyze the frequency of various categories of questions as well as the industries and characteristics of the businesses targeted.

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Read about proposed legislation in Texas that would impose extensive new fees and requirements on solar and wind energy generators if enacted into law.

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In recent years, companies and investment managers have increasingly considered environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) issues in corporate strategy and decision-making, whether in response to investor pressure or due to self-imposed changes via internal processes.  Indeed, a market has developed for ESG-compliant investments over the past few years.  And while ESG-focused investing is more popular than ever, the topic has become increasingly politically fraught.

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Prior to the recent midterm elections, we wrote about five Senate Republicans who issued a warning letter to major U.S. law firms regarding the potential antitrust implications of Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) investing and activities. The letter advises that ESG activities may be viewed as “climate cartels” and present antitrust risk when firms engage in ESG group initiatives. With the midterm election results, those Senate Republicans will likely not be able to follow through on this line of investigation. However, House Republicans have taken up the issue, and they will have the ability to conduct antitrust scrutiny of ESG initiatives.

 
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In our sixth session, the team is joined by Jason Vigna, a Member in our Securities Litigation Practice, to discuss best practices for handling crises in the boardroom — including identifying, documenting, discussing, managing, and disclosing material risks.

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Read about a DOL final rule under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which clarifies that fiduciaries may consider climate change and other environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors when making investment decisions and exercising shareholder rights.

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In our fifth session, which focuses on employment law, the team is joined by Jen Rubin, a bicoastal Member in our Employment, Labor & Benefits Practice and Chair of our ESG Practice, to discuss best practices related to hiring an executive (hint: consensus is key), managing the executive at the board level, and how to (amicably) negotiate to terminate an executive.

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In this in-depth article, Mintz Projects & Infrastructure Practice Chair Ayaz Shaikh, along with Mintz Associates Areta Jez and Brad Alexander, survey the establishment and evolution of carbon markets and explain carbon credits, carbon offsets, and the difference between compulsory and voluntary carbon markets.

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In our fourth session, “ESG in the Boardroom,” the team is joined by Kristyn Noeth, Of Counsel at Mintz, to discuss best practices related to and practical implementation of ESG concepts, as well as the impending Climate Disclosure Rule. As noted in the introduction, fewer topics are generating more interest in boardrooms across the country (and at Mintz!) than environmental, social, and corporate governance.

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In our second session, “Running an Effective Board Meeting,” the team discusses key considerations for public and private companies in this critical area of governance.

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Read about the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 enacted August 16, 2022, which extends and expands existing tax credits and adds several new energy tax credits to encourage the production of electricity using clean energy and the reduction of carbon emissions.

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