environmental disclosure

The SEC has not yet adopted the long-anticipated final version of its proposed climate change disclosure guidelines, although there is some speculation that the final guidelines will be adopted in the Fall. In the meantime, however, sustainability reporting standards are going into effect elsewhere, with important ramifications for all companies.

On July 31, 2023, the European Commission adopted the first set of European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), which require EU and non-EU companies with specified levels of EU activity to file annual sustainability reports with their financial statements. The standards will soon become law and apply in all 27 EU Member states, with compliance requirements effective as early as 2025 for the 2024 reporting period. The ESRS as adopted on July 31, 2023, by the European Commission can be found here. The European Commission’s adoption of the first set of ESRS and the reporting standard’s requirements are described in detail in an August 11, 2023, memo from the Cooley law firm, here.Continue Reading EU Adopts Mandatory ESG Reporting Requirements

Many of you may have read the recent series of Wall Street Journal articles raising the alarm about the sprawling U.S. network of lead telephone cables. The articles suggest not only that the lead cables represent a health hazard to workers and to nearby residents, but that the telephone companies (including AT&T) allegedly have known about these hazards but have failed to take corrective measures. The revelations in the Journal series have led to governmental investigations. And now a plaintiff shareholder has filed a securities class action lawsuit against AT&T alleging that the company misled investors about the allegedly known but undisclosed risks the companies faced as a result of the lead telephone cable hazards. This new event-driven lawsuit shows that dangers that unacknowledged environmental and health hazards may represent for reporting companies. A copy of the July 27, 2023, complaint can be found here.Continue Reading Lead Telecom Cables Exposé Leads to Securities Suit Filing

When the SEC established a Climate and ESG Task Force in March 2021, the agency said that the group would “develop initiatives to proactively identify ESG-related misconduct.” Since that time the Task Force has indeed filed enforcement actions alleging ESG-related misrepresentations. Now the agency has reached a settlement with the Brazil-based mining company Vale, S.A. of the Task Force’s first-filed enforcement action, in connection with alleged misrepresentations in the company’s sustainability report about the safety of the company’s mining dams. In the settlement, the company agreed to pay a total of $55.9 million. The enforcement action and its settlement signify the agency’s increasing focus on ESG-related disclosure and its willingness to pursue enforcement actions using existing procedural mechanisms. A copy of the SEC’s March 28, 2023, press release about the Vale settlement can be found here.Continue Reading Mining Company Settles SEC’s ESG Task Force’s First-Ever Enforcement Action

If there is one current topic that commands the attention of investors and other corporate stakeholders these days, it is ESG. ESG-related issues have of course previously led to securities suits and other types of D&O claims. However, amidst the current heightened focus on ESG, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what ESG-related D&O claims might look like.

For that reason, the enforcement action that the SEC filed last week against the Brazilian mining company Vale, S.A. in connection with alleged misrepresentations the company allegedly made before the January 2019 collapse of its Brumadinho dam is noteworthy. Of particular interest to observers focused on ESG concerns is the fact that the SEC specifically alleged that the company “regularly misled local governments, communities, and investors about the safety of the Brumadinho dam through its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosures.” The SEC’s April 28, 2022 press release about the Vale action can be found here. The SEC’s complaint in the action can be found here.
Continue Reading SEC Action Against Brazilian Mining Company Alleges ESG Misrepresentations

The liability environment for directors and officers is always in a state of change, but 2019 was a particularly eventful year in the D&O liability arena, with important consequences for the D&O insurance marketplace. The past year’s many developments have significant implications for what may lie ahead in 2020 – and possibly for years to come, as well.  I have set out below the Top Ten D&O Stories of 2019, with a focus on the future implications.
Continue Reading The Top Ten D&O Stories of 2019

As I have previously noted on this blog, one recurring source of securities class action litigation exposure for publicly traded companies is the companies’ underlying environmental liabilities. In the latest example of this type of litigation, a plaintiff shareholder has now filed a securities suit against The Chemours Company, a chemical company that spun out of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (“DuPont”) in July 2015. One of the extraordinary things about the new securities suit is that it draws heavily on allegations Chemours itself raised in a 2019 Delaware Chancery Court lawsuit it filed against DuPont, in which, among other things, Chemours alleges that when DuPont spun out the company, its environmental liabilities reserves were “spectacularly” inadequate. A copy of the on October 8, 2019 securities class action complaint filed in the District of Delaware against Chemours, its CEO, and its CFO can be found here.
Continue Reading Environmental Liability-Related Securities Suit Filed against DuPont Spin-off Chemours

At a time when litigation involving corporate disclosures regarding cybersecurity, privacy, and human resource practices and other hot topics dominate the discussion, potential corporate exposure arising from environmental liabilities and disclosures does not always receive the attention it deserves. However, as I have previously noted on this blog,  environmental disclosures can and frequently are the subject of D&O litigation, both in the form of securities class action litigation and shareholder derivative litigation. A new securities suit recently filed against 3M is the latest example of corporate and securities litigation arising from environmental disclosure-related issues. As discussed further below, the 3M complaint is also the latest example of event-driven securities litigation as well.
Continue Reading Environmental Liability-Related Securities Suit Filed Against 3M

exxonFor many years, I have been raising the possibility of climate change-related corporate and securities litigation. However, despite my best prognostication, the climate change-related  corporate and securities lawsuits have basically failed to materialize – that is, until now. On November 7, 2016, investors filed a purported securities class action lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas against Exxon Mobil Corporation and certain of its directors and officers. The lawsuit specifically references the company’s climate change-related disclosures, as well as the company’s valuation of its existing oil and gas reserves. One lawsuit doesn’t make a trend, and many of the lawsuit’s allegations relates specifically to Exxon Mobil and its particular disclosures. Nevertheless, the filing of the lawsuit raises the question whether there may be other climate change-related disclosure cases ahead. A copy of the November 7, 2016 lawsuit can be found here.
Continue Reading Investors File Climate Change Related Securities Suit Against Exxon Mobil

exxonThe question whether concerns about climate change-related disclosures might lead to regulatory enforcement actions or even liability claims has been around for some time, but though the concerns have remained, the regulatory actions and liability claims have not really materialized.  However, in the past week, the service of a subpoena on Exxon Mobil Corp. by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has raised the possibility that an enforcement action against the energy giant relating to its climate change-related disclosures may be in the works. The Attorney General’s action also raises the question whether other companies and industries could also be targeted. These possibilities highlight possible corporate climate change-related enforcement and liability exposures.
Continue Reading Up Next?: Climate Change Disclosure and Corporate Liability Exposures

floridaAt a time when cyber liability and other hot topics dominate the discussion, potential corporate liability arising from environmental disclosures often does not receive the attention it should. However, as I have previously noted on this blog, environmental issues have been and remain an area on which plaintiffs’ lawyer have been focused. A recently