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RESEARCH BRIEF: SEC seeks public comment on its release on public company disclosure; includes possibility of mandated sustainability reporting
Description: On April 13, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a new Concept Release regarding public company disclosures through Regulation S-K. The public comment period will be open until July 21, 2016. The SEC requires that publicly traded companies disclose certain material business and financial information to investors on an annual basis. As the business and technology landscapes continue to change, the SEC continues to examine which issues should be considered material to investors, and how companies should disclose them. The concept release discusses and seeks feedback on many current reporting policies and practices.
While initiated primarily as an effort intended to seek opportunities to streamline the reporting process, several new topics for reporting are on the table as additional requirements, one of which is sustainability reporting. The Commission has in the past declined to make public policy and sustainability issues requirements for disclosure. Recent regulation—particularly the Dodd-Frank act—and feedback from greater numbers of investors that they are considering a wide range of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues, including environmental risks, to be material information in making sound investment decisions is leading the SEC to weigh the value to investors of additional disclosures against the added burden on companies to provide it. To this end, the SEC is seeking feedback on which, and in what forms, ESG issues should be required by companies to make available to investors.