The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed changes to the ‘Investment Company Act,’ an umbrella fund labeling regulation that requires 80% of holdings to be invested in accordance with the fund’s suggested investment focus. Funds that deem themselves ‘ESG,’ ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’ would be required, under the ‘modernized’ regulation, to identify securities included in the 80% basket. The proposed rule seeks to enhance data comparability and help investors differentiate between investment strategies. Given the investment industry’s demand for quantitative data, the S.E.C. has also introduced a standardized methodology for reporting emissions metrics. The fund labeling rule will be opened for comment and subject to further amendments. If finalized, it would be enforced at the start of the upcoming fiscal year FY 2023. In its proposal, the S.E.C. notes the rapid expansion of the sustainable investment universe – a 25 times increase from $639 billion to $17.1 trillion. The regulator is presently undertaking multiple measures to protect investors from misleading or exaggerated ESG claims, including the recent climate disclosure rule. The S.E.C. is, however, facing backlash for extending its powers. Several republican treasurers are punishing big banks including Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs for fossil fuel divestment and preventing them from obtaining government contracts. The governing landscape is undergoing a paradigm shift in the U.S. and progressive rulemaking is being blocked beyond the treasury in republican-led state legislatures.
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