President-elect Trump has chosen attorney Jay Clayton as his nominee to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. Clayton is a legal partner in the firm Sullivan and Cromwell which has encouraged its clients, many of them fossil fuel companies, to disclose to investors their companies’ impact on the climate.
President-elect Donald Trump has picked climate-change skeptics to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department. But Trump’s pick for chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, is the point man for his law firm’s push to get its clients, including Exxon Mobil, to follow rules for full disclosure of climate-change impact.
Dave Anderson at the Energy and Policy Institute, an industry watchdog, writes on the Thursday that Clayton’s law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, takes a “rather striking” view on the issue of climate change disclosure despite having represented a slew of fossil fuel firms.
Clayton and his firm have sounded the siren for its clients on climate-change disclosure in more than one memo, strongly encouraging corporations to disclose climate change related risks to the SEC and investors. The memos also highlight the legal consequences companies like Exxon and Peabody Energy have faced when they fail to do so.
The SEC is certainly not a big player in setting climate change policy but it seems like a somewhat odd choice, given that Trump is appointing a climate change skeptic to head up the EPA and has himself called climate change a hoax perpetrated by China. Although, since the election his position has softened on the issue.
Sullivan & Cromwell is also an associate member of the Chicago Climate Exchange, a division of ICE, and North America’s largest and longest running greenhouse gas emission reduction program. It was first major international law firm to join, according to a press release. “We are committed,” said Sullivan & Cromwell chairman H. Rodgin Cohen at the time, “to being a socially responsible member of all the communities in which we practice.”
The memos also remind clients state attorneys general like Schneiderman and California’s Governor Jerry Brown have vowed to continue with their efforts to hold fossil fuel and utility interests accountable on climate change, even if the Trump SEC drops the issue.
Is the appointment of Clayton a sign that the “Trump SEC” won’t be dropping the issue?
It remains to be seen whether Clayton will take the SEC back to its lax enforcement days on the climate change disclosure issue or if he will carry his firm’s advice over to agency policy.
The climate change alarmist community has been in a full blown panic since Trump won the election. The appointment of an SEC Chairman who is sympathetic to the notion of man-caused climate change isn’t likely to change that, but it does make Trump’s position on the issue a bit murkier.