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Gwen Williamson represents registered investment companies and their independent directors, as well as investment advisers, family offices, and nonprofit organizations. She advises clients on governance and compliance responsibilities under the federal securities laws, including the Investment Company Act of 1940 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Gwen has significant experience in the ESG and principles-based investing space.

On Monday, the SEC announced its much anticipated proposal on climate-related disclosure for public companies. As our colleague Allison Handy explains in her Public Chatter blog, the proposal would require disclosure on climate-related risks financial statement metrics, including information on greenhouse gas emissions, weather-related and other natural events, operational resilience, and the company’s climate-related transition

On February 10, 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a settlement order with a firm providing digital investment advice that claimed to operate in compliance with Islamic Shari’ah law (the Robo-Adviser). The SEC’s titling of its own press release, “SEC Charges Robo-Adviser with Misleading Clients,” highlights the SEC’s continued focus on both robo-advisers since the Division of Examination’s November 2021 Risk Alert and the accuracy of fund and adviser communications around investment services based on norms, such as Sharia’ah law, and other environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors since the Division’s April 2021 Risk Alert.
Continue Reading Enforcement Settlement With Shari’ah-Compliant Robo-Adviser Highlights SEC Priorities

Our colleagues Kurt E. Linsenmayer and Cristopher D. Jones just issued an update on the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposal to change the standards for ERISA plan fiduciaries when evaluating investments or voting proxies. Their article discusses the proposed changes and their implications. The DOL’s proposal stands in stark contrast to the ESG-related rules adopted

Note: The following post originally appeared in Perkins Coie’s Public Chatter blog.

In the making for a long time, the SEC proposed rules yesterday that would change how mutual funds disclose their proxy voting – and would require institutional investors to disclose their say-on-pay voting records for the first time. Here’s the 174-page proposing release.
Continue Reading SEC Proposes Changes to How Funds Disclose How They Voted

In Part 1 of this post, we focused on the July 7, 2021, recommendations for funds and advisers from the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Subcommittee of the SEC’s Asset Management Advisory Committee (AMAC). Here we cover the August 6, 2021, SEC order approving diversity disclosure rules proposed by The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC (Nasdaq) and the public responses of SEC Commissioners. Suffice it to say, the Commission is not of one mind.

Continue Reading D&I Developments at the SEC – Part 2 of 2

In recent weeks two important regulatory developments focused on diversity and inclusion (D&I) have come out of the SEC: the D&I Subcommittee of the SEC’s Asset Management Advisory Committee (AMAC) presented and received approval for its recommendations, and the SEC issued an order approving rule changes proposed by The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC (Nasdaq) relating to board diversity. SEC Chair Gary Gensler and other commissioners have publicly supported the Subcommittee’s recommendations and the new Nasdaq rules. But these developments are not uniformly popular at the SEC.

Continue Reading D&I Developments at the SEC – Part 1 of 2

This post catches up on the ESG front at the SEC following the appointment of Gary Gensler as Chairman. The switch from a Chairman appointed by President Trump to one appointed by President Biden may add momentum to the SEC’s ESG proposals.
Continue Reading No Summer Slump on ESG at the SEC: Board Duties, Exams, Rulemaking and Skepticism

On April 9, 2021, the SEC’s Division of Examinations (the “Division”) published its first risk alert detailing deficient and effective practices among investment advisers and registered and private funds (“Firms”) offering ESG strategies. The SEC is not alone in its focus on ESG matters as the CFTC and its Climate Risk Unit (“CRU”) continue to assess the risks to U.S. financial stability posed by climate change.
Continue Reading The SEC’s ESG Risk Alert and the CFTC’s New Climate Risk Unit

Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee continues to aggressively promote the SEC’s ESG agenda by launching a dedicated ESG webpage on the SEC’s website and speaking in support of ESG initiatives. The SEC’s Asset Management Advisory Committee (“AMAC”) is also moving forward with important ESG recommendations, including promotion of diversity and inclusion measures.
Continue Reading The SEC Is All in on ESG, Including (Potentially) D&I Issues

The pace of statements on ESG issues from SEC Commissioners on both sides of the political aisle shows no signs of abating. As Gary Gensler’s confirmation as SEC chair nears and acting Chair Allison Herren Lee continues to highlight the SEC’s prioritization of climate and other ESG matters affecting the financial markets, Commissioners Elad Roisman and Hester Pierce have voiced a need for restraint.
Continue Reading Details on the SEC’s ESG Priorities, an Invitation to Comment, and Words of Caution