While academics and others may be asking whether it is time to “say RIP to ESG,” the fact is that though some observers may be done with ESG, ESG is not done with us. A recent action by a U.K. regulator shows that companies remain susceptible to investigations and other regulatory actions for their sustainability and other product or business-related claims. In a December 12, 2023 press release (here), the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it has started a formal investigation into the London-based consumer products company Unilever to examine the company’s “green” claims about “a number” of its products.

As discussed below, this latest regulatory action underscores the fact that companies seeking to burnish their green credentials could be subject to scrutiny and even possible regulatory action. A December 13, 2023, Wall Street Journal article about the CMA’s investigation can be found here.Continue Reading Unilever Under U.K. Investigation for Possible “Greenwashing” Product Claims

The risks and opportunities that AI presents have emerged quickly and may be evolving even faster; the whole AI phenomenon has developed much more quickly than legislators’ and regulators’ ability to respond. Among the many AI effects that regulators and other observers are struggling to assess is the extent of the AI-related litigation potential, including but not limited to the prospects for AI-related corporate and securities litigation.Continue Reading SEC Chair Warns Against “AI Washing”

Persia Navidi

Readers of this blog well know that one of the current hot topics in the world of D&O is ESG – and not just in the United States, but in Europe, and elsewhere as well. In the following guest post, Persia Navidi, Partner in Insurance, Cyber and Climate Risk at Hicksons Lawyers, provides an overview of the state of play with regard to ESG in Australia, and also discusses the related insurance issues. I would like to thank Persia for allowing me to publish her article as a guest post on this 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 Persia’s article.Continue Reading Guest Post: ESG and Financial Lines Insurance in Australia

A unit of Deutsche Bank has agreed to the entry of a cease-and-desist order and to the payment of a $19 million penalty in connection with an SEC enforcement action in which the agency alleged that the unit had made materially misleading statements about its use of ESG factors into its research and investment recommendations. The ESG-related enforcement action was accompanied by a separate anti-money laundering (AML) enforcement action against the unit, Deutsche Bank’s New York-based investment advisor subsidiary, DWS Investment Management Americas (DWS), in which DWS agreed to pay a separate $6 million penalty. The ESG-related action, which apparently involved the SEC’s Climate and ESG Task Force, highlights the ways in which companies seeking to be proactive on ESG-related issues can attract claims. The action also underscores the fact that the SEC is scrutinizing ESG-related disclosures.Continue Reading Deutsche Bank Unit Hit with SEC Penalties Over ESG Claims

Readers of this blog know that one of the more significant recent developments in the ESG arena has been the rise of the ESG backlash – that is, moves by state legislators and others to try to push back against a supposed ESG agenda. These developments have put company executives squarely in the crossfire, as they struggle, on the one hand, to address continued efforts by activist stakeholders to push companies toward expanded ESG commitments, and conflicting efforts by conservative politicians to punish companies for supposedly pursuing a “woke” agenda. How are companies to respond to these competing forces? Evidence suggests that increasingly companies are responding by “greenhushing” – that is, by keeping quiet about their ESG initiatives.Continue Reading Next Up on the ESG Front: Greenhushing?

In prior posts, I have noted the growing phenomenon of an anti-ESG backlash. The ESG backlash has taken the form of both legislation and litigation. In the latest examples of ESG backlash litigation, plaintiffs recently have filed two lawsuits against U.S.-based airlines based on the companies’ alleged actions supporting ESG-related initiatives. As discussed below, these latest lawsuits reconfirm that it is not the ESG laggards that are getting hit with ESG-related litigation; rather, the lawsuits are coming against companies that are taking ESG-supportive initiatives.Continue Reading Airlines Hit with ESG-Backlash Lawsuits

In recent posts on this site (for example, here), I have discussed the developing ESG-related litigation phenomenon in which claimants file suits not against ESG laggards bur rather against companies that have taken the initiative on ESG-related matters. However, the existence of this trend, while noteworthy, does not negate the possibilities for litigation involving the ESG laggards, as well. There are in fact noteworthy instances of this latter type of litigation, much of it in Europe, as is well-detailed in a December 2022 white paper from the Jones Day law firm entitled “ESG – Climate Change and Related Litigation Takes Center State in Europe” (here). The white paper not only catalogs recent European ESG-related litigation but also identifies regulatory developments and other trends that could contribute to further litigation in the future.
Continue Reading Lessons from Climate Change-Related Litigation in Europe

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       

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

Among the topics of principal focus on this site are U.S. securities class action lawsuits, although from time to time I do write about collective investor actions outside the U.S (here, for example). The fact is that in recent years there have been a number of important and interesting developments in collective investor actions outside of the U.S. In a recent paper, “Five Current Class Actions Outside of North American Investors Should Be Aware Of,” Jeff Lubitz, Managing Director, ISS Securities Class Action Services, takes a look at some key cases outside of the U.S. to watch in coming months. A copy of the paper can be found here.
Continue Reading Key Collective Investor Actions Outside the U.S. to Watch