Last month, a group of investors, state officials and environmental groups filed a petition asking the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to mandate that publicly traded companies assess and fully disclose financial risks relating to climate change in their public disclosure. The petitioners stated that public companies’ climate change risks and opportunities are material to investors. They contend that existing SEC rules require that these risks and opportunities be analyzed and disclosed. Specifically, the petitioners asked that the SEC require companies to review their internal procedures for gathering and assessing climate-related information and corporate structures related to climate risk. This would involve reviewing and calculating risks such as current and projected GHG emissions. Further, the petitioners asked that the SEC require disclosure from public companies on physical risks associated with climate change that are material to a company’s operations or financial condition, financial risks and opportunities associated with reasonably anticipated GHG regulation and legal proceedings related to climate change. The petitioners indicated that climate change risks require disclosure under the narrative disclosure requirements of SEC Regulation S-K regarding the description of a registrant’s business, its pending legal proceedings and Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. For more information, please see www.sec.gov/rules/petitions/2007/petn4-547.pdf.
Additionally, the New York State Attorney General recently subpoenaed five power company executives in an effort to gather information regarding their analyses of climate change risks and the disclosure of those risks to investors. The five power companies are in various stages of constructing new coal plants. The subpoenas were issued under a New York State securities law that grants the attorney general broad powers to subpoena records in order to protect investor interests. In letters accompanying the subpoenas, the attorney general expressed concern that the power companies had not adequately disclosed the increased financial, regulatory and litigation risks that will come with the increase in emissions from the operation of new coal plants. For more information, please see www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2007/sep/sep17a_07.html.