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Investors, You Can Change the Rules

If you’re an investor or want to be, you have the right to participate in the process that makes the rules protecting investors and governing markets.

Securities and Exchange Commission building

Counter Wall Street by Making Your Voices Heard 

Rulemaking is a public, (mostly) transparent process at agencies like the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), which writes the rules implementing the laws that Congress passes. That doesn’t mean it’s easy for the public to participate in the rulemakings.  But the public must because it’s the only way to change the system, which is often rigged, has too many unfair rules, and too often lets predators get rich ripping off Main Street investors.  That’s because Wall Street’s biggest banks and financial firms have lots of lobbyists and lawyers participating in that process and there are too few investors.

SUBMITTING A COMMENT LETTER

Investors – YOU – have enormous power and the potential for significant influence. If you participate, you could become a counterweight to Wall Street’s biggest banks and financial firms’ lobbyists.

Here’s a quick overview of the rulemaking process: the SEC is required to invite the public to submit letters with comments on their rule proposals.  The SEC is then required to consider each comment letter they receive.  The SEC usually receives lots of letters from Wall Street’s army of lobbyists, lawyers, and political allies to dilute, limit, or kill the rules.  Their goals are to maximize their profits—profits that come from the pockets of everyday investors like yourself!  The SEC rarely hears from the individual retail investors who invest in the stock markets.

That is a huge opportunity for investors!  We want to help investors participate and ensure that the SEC listens to them.  Why? Because Better Markets exists to protect the public interest in the financial markets, including investors’ interests. We are a nonprofit advocacy organization that fights Wall Street every day at the SEC and the other financial regulatory agencies (as well as in Congress and in the courts). We’ve been doing that since we were founded in 2010!

Your views and your engagement are critical!  That’s why we’ve laid out everything you need to know about the rulemaking process below. Don’t let Wall Street’s voice be the only voice the SEC hears! Here are the upcoming rules you can help make a difference on:

The SEC is proposing to require public companies to disclosure material information about the climate-related risks they face.  This is an important, appropriate, and timely step that will help investors evaluate the impact that climate change may have on the companies in which they seek to invest.

There is a broad scientific consensus that Earth’s climate is warming, that humans are a primary cause, and that unless addressed, the consequences will be devastating.  In fact, there is widespread consensus that we are already seeing the consequences of climate change, as scientists have confidently concluded that recent increases in devastating wildfires and deadly and costly ecological and weather disasters have been fueled in large part by the warming climate.  Moreover, achieving the drastic reduction in emissions that will be required will result in fundamental and significant changes to how humans live, move, and work, which will in turn result in fundamental changes to commerce, markets, and the economy.

Given the widespread and varied effects of climate change, and the significant and widespread efforts that will be required to combat it, there is no company that can plausibly claim it does not need to account for the risks posed by climate change.  Every company will be subject to some form of climate risk, whether arising from threats to its physical infrastructure, threats to supply chains, population shifts, or changes in consumer preferences arising from decarbonization.  However, although public companies in the U.S. are required to publicly disclose the material risks associated with investing in them, there is no specific requirement that companies disclose their climate-related risks, much less any requirement that such risks be standardized so that investors can make meaningful comparisons across companies.  This is especially untenable given the significant investor demand for enhanced climate disclosures.  To remedy this, the SEC is proposing to require that companies under its jurisdiction disclose in periodic reports (such as 10-Ks) their:

  • Climate-related risks and their actual or likely material impacts on the company’s business, strategy, and outlook;
  • The company’s governance of climate-related risks and relevant risk management processes;
  • The company’s emissions of greenhouse gases (subject to assurances for certain larger companies);
  • Certain climate-related financial statement metrics and related disclosures in a note to its audited financial statements; and
  • Information about climate-related targets and goals, and transition plans, if any.

The rule has triggered strong opposition from some in industry who claim that the SEC is involving itself in climate policy, something they claim is beyond the agency’s authority. But they are way off the mark, as the SEC’s proposed rule is at heart simply a requirement that public companies disclose material information to investors—something the agency has been doing under the securities laws for nearly 100 years.

Submit your comment letter in one of three ways:

Vanessa Countryman, Secretary
Securities and Exchange Commission
100 F Street, NE
Washington, DC 20549-0609

Submitting a Comment Letter—Some Key Points to Remember

  1. There’s no magic formula but there are some things you can do to help your comment letter have the most impact.
  2. Include the File number for the rule. The subject line of your message should include the File Number for the rule. This is the number that begins “S7-” or “SR-” and you can find it at the top of the rule proposal.
  3. Briefly describe who you are and why you care about the rule proposal.
  4. Set forth the points you want to make. For example, you can:
    • Identify weaknesses in the rule that the agency should change
    • Express support for the rule
    • Share or cite any relevant data, research, or reports you think the agency should consider
  5. Attach any documents you think support your arguments.

For a full list of instructions, review the SEC’s How To Submit Comment Letters

 

Want to See Some Examples? Here’s a Select Few to Inspire You

Now, remember, lawyers and specialists work for us, so our work is often long, complicated, dense, and unreadable legal language more than English!  You don’t have to be like that and, in fact, should not!  Put it in your own words, relate it to your investing activities and investments, and offer your views.

Better Markets Work

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December 27 2021 – Better Markets Urges SEC to Rescind Trump-Era Provisions That Make it Harder for Investors to Receive Independent Advice on Proxy Votes

December 15, 2021 – Better Markets Supports Disclosure of Proxy Voting by Registered Investment Companies

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