As I have noted in prior posts, conflicting political views about ESG-related issues have put corporate executives in the crosshairs, a dilemma that has caused some companies to try to avoid ESG issues altogether – a phenomenon that has been described as “greenhushing.” Among other concerns troubling corporate officials about the entire ESG debate is that some politicians have publicly raised the possibility that the act of taking ESG considerations into account in decision-making could itself constitute a breach of fiduciary duty.

Continue Reading Disney, Fiduciary Duties, Business Judgment, and Corporate ESG-Related Actions

ESG has for some time now been a hot button issue for companies. More recently, an anti-ESG backlash has emerged, further complicating the ESG environment for companies and sometimes putting them in a “damned-if-you-do-and damned-if-you-don’t” dilemma. How are companies to navigate these complicated conditions? In a May 23, 2023 post on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance entitled “Navigating the Current ESG Landscape: Recommendations for the Board and Management” (here), veteran and respected corporate attorney Martin Lipton of the Wachtell, Lipton law firm provides guidance for companies as they navigate these difficult circumstances and describes the principles companies should follow in trying to make their way on these issues.

Continue Reading Navigating the Challenging ESG Landscape

In a shareholder claim against the former global head of HR at McDonald’s, the Delaware Chancery Court has held that liability for breach of the duty of oversight, which Delaware courts had previously extended only to corporate directors, can also extend to corporate officers, as well. In addition, in a separate part of the opinion that may not gain as much attention as the duty of oversight ruling, the same court also held that a breach of fiduciary duty claim can be alleged against an officer based on sexual harassment allegations. The court’s January 25, 2023 opinion in this case, a copy of which can be found here, is likely to be the subject of scrutiny, commentary, and controversy.

Continue Reading Breach of the Duty of Oversight Liability Extends to Officers as Well as Directors

As readers of this blog well know, ESG is one of the hot topics in the investment and financial world these days. ESG is also very much on the mind of regulators as well, as two recent developments show. First, on November 22, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor issued updated rules expressly allowing plan fiduciaries to consider ESG factors when they select retirement fund investments and exercise shareholder rights, such as proxy voting. Second, the SEC, acting through its Division of Enforcement’s Climate and ESG Task Force, brought a settled enforcement action against Goldman Sachs Asset Management for policies and procedures shortcomings at funds marketed as ESG investments. These developments underscore the challenges companies, investment funds, and others face as they navigate the complex ESG landscape.
Continue Reading Regulators’ Take On ESG Investing