The hot button topic in both the investing world and the D&O insurance world these days is “ESG.” Setting aside the fundamental problem that nobody actually knows what ESG is, there is the inextricably related problem that the D&O claims risk related to ESG is fundamentally misunderstood. The current basic premise in the D&O insurance world is that companies that are “good” on ESG (whatever that means) represent better D&O insurance risks. Yet, as I have documented in numerous posts on this site (most recently here), it is not the ESG laggards that are getting hit with D&O claims; the claims are in fact being filed against companies that are proactive on ESG issues.

The latest example of this phenomenon is the securities class action lawsuit filed late last week against wood products company Enviva, which promotes itself as growth-oriented environmental, social, and governance (ESG) company. The lawsuit follows publication of a short seller report that, among other things, characterized the company as “the latest ESG farce” engaged in “textbook greenwashing.” A copy of the November 3, 2022 complaint against Enviva can be found here.
Continue Reading Wood Products Company Hit with ESG “Greenwashing” Securities Suit

As I have previously noted (most recently here), something of an anti-ESG backlash has started to take shape, at least in certain quarters. Legislatures in several states have passed legislation prohibiting state pension funds from investing in ESG- focused investments or prohibiting the state from doing business with companies that boycott certain industries. The backlash has also taken the form of litigation, as, for example, with respect to the lawsuit recently filed against Starbucks board pertaining to the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative (DEI).

As Alison Frankel discusses in an October 26, 2022 post on her On the Case blog (here), and in the latest manifestation of this kind of anti-ESG litigation, a nonprofit group has filed an action against the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer based on the company’s sponsorship of a foundation offering fellowships aimed at Black, Latino, Native American and other minority candidates. This latest lawsuit is yet another indication that the companies that get caught up in ESG litigation may the companies taking ESG initiatives, perhaps more so that ESG laggards.
Continue Reading Suits Targeting Firms Seeking to Boost Minorities Highlight ESG Risks

In prior posts on this site (for example here), I have expressed my concern that the current hot topic of ESG has a fundamental underlying flaw in that the term lacks definition and that this lack of precision has led to a great deal of sloppy thinking. A recent post on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance provides a good examination of these ESG-related concerns. In an October 14, 2022 post (here), Douglas Chia of Soundboard Governance LLC, shows, using cybersecurity as an example, that one of the “biggest flaws” of ESG is “the subjective open-endedness of what counts as E, S, or G.”
Continue Reading ESG’s “Biggest Risk”?

Nessim Mezrahi
Stephen Sigrist

As I have noted in prior posts on this site (here, for example) D&O insurers confront a number of underwriting challenges in the current financial environment, including a host of macroeconomic factors that are complicated affairs for their policyholders and that could even lead to claims. In the following guest post, Nessim Mezrahi and Stephen Sigrist take a look at the challenging factors the D&O insurers are facing and consider the implications. Mezrahi is co-founder and CEO and Sigrist is Vice President of Data Science at SAR LLC. A copy of this article previously was published on Law360. I would like to thank the authors for allowing me to publish their article on my site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is the authors’ article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: D&O Insurer Challenges Amid Market, Economic Turbulence

I hope many readers saw and read my recent post “What to Watch in the World of D&O.”  A few days ago I recorded a podcast as part of the Rising Edge Ltd’s podcast series in which I discuss several of the themes raised in the “What to Watch” post. In the podcast recording, I

In my recently published survey of the top topics in the world of directors’ and officers’ liability and insurance, and in connection with my discussion of ESG issues, I briefly mentioned the lawsuit that was filed last week against directors and officers of Starbucks in connection with the company’s “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) policies. Because there are a number of notable aspects of this lawsuit, it is worth taking a closer look at the suit. As discussed below, the lawsuit represents yet another instance of anti-ESG backlash and illustrates how companies taking the initiative on ESG issues could incur scrutiny and litigation risk. A copy of the recent complaint can be found here and a copy of the plaintiff’s August 31, 2022 press release can be found here.
Continue Reading Starbucks Execs Hit With Suit Alleging the Company’s DEI Policies Violate Civil Rights Laws

Readers of this blog are well aware that “ESG” (whatever that term may mean) is one of the hot topics in the financial and business sectors. Companies face scrutiny and pressure to show that they are making progress on ESG goals. The SEC has established an ESG task force and proposed climate change disclosure rules. Now, as if all of that were not enough, political reaction is giving rise to an ESG backlash. As detailed in two recent memos from the Morgan Lewis law firm (here and here), as many as 17 states have now adopted “anti-ESG” state legislation that would limit the ability of state governments, including public retirement plans, to do business with entities “boycotting” industries based on ESG criteria or considering ESG factors in their investment processes.
Continue Reading And Now, The ESG Backlash

The hot topic in the financial press, the corporate world, and the legal arena these days is “ESG.” This portmanteau expression – ESG — is meant to encompass a plethora of diverse and unrelated concepts, ideas, and concerns. The reality is that it is hard to say simply what “ESG” means; and not just “ESG,” but each of the three pillars, E, S, and G, are subject to the same definitional imprecision. Yet everyone continues to act as if “ESG” is a known, specific, and identifiable thing, that can be measured and assessed. The result is a false sense of precision, and a great deal of very sloppy thinking.

These issues are well-discussed in Cydney Posner’s August 8, 2022 post on the Cooley law firm’s Pubco blog, entitled “What’s Wrong with ESG Measures?” (here). Posner’s article discusses in the detail the recent research paper issued by the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University entitled “ESG Ratings – A Compass Without Direction” (here).
Continue Reading Zeroing In On The Problem With “ESG”