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1) May 25 (press release 2022-92): SEC Proposes to Enhance Disclosures by Certain Investment Advisers and Investment Companies About ESG Investment Practices

The Securities and Exchange Commission today proposed amendments to rules and reporting forms to promote consistent, comparable, and reliable information for investors concerning funds’ and advisers’ incorporation of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors. The proposed changes would apply to certain registered investment advisers, advisers exempt from registration, registered investment companies, and business development companies.

“I am pleased to support this proposal because, if adopted, it would establish disclosure requirements for funds and advisers that market themselves as having an ESG focus,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “ESG encompasses a wide variety of investments and strategies. I think investors should be able to drill down to see what’s under the hood of these strategies. This gets to the heart of the SEC’s mission to protect investors, allowing them to allocate their capital efficiently and meet their needs.”

The proposed amendments seek to categorize certain types of ESG strategies broadly and require funds and advisers to provide more specific disclosures in fund prospectuses, annual reports, and adviser brochures based on the ESG strategies they pursue. Funds focused on the consideration of environmental factors generally would be required to disclose the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their portfolio investments. Funds claiming to achieve a specific ESG impact would be required to describe the specific impact(s) they seek to achieve and summarize their progress on achieving those impacts. Funds that use proxy voting or other engagement with issuers as a significant means of implementing their ESG strategy would be required to disclose information regarding their voting of proxies on particular ESG-related voting matters and information concerning their ESG engagement meetings.

Finally, to complement the proposed ESG disclosures in fund prospectuses, annual reports, and adviser brochures, the proposal would require certain ESG reporting on Forms N-CEN and ADV Part 1A, which are forms on which funds and advisers, respectively, report census-type data that inform the Commission’s regulatory, enforcement, examination, disclosure review, and policymaking roles.

News release: https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2022-92
Fact sheet: https://www.sec.gov/files/ia-6034-fact-sheet.pdf

June 17 -- Proposed rule (108 pages): https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-11718  Comments due by August 16, 2022.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) is proposing to amend rules and forms under both the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) and the Investment Company Act of 1940 (“Investment Company Act”) to require registered investment advisers, certain advisers that are exempt from registration, registered investment companies, and business development companies, to provide additional information regarding their environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) investment practices. The proposed amendments to these forms and associated rules seek to facilitate enhanced disclosure of ESG issues to clients and shareholders. The proposed rules and form amendments are designed to create a consistent, comparable, and decision-useful regulatory framework for ESG advisory services and investment companies to inform and protect investors while facilitating further innovation in this evolving area of the asset management industry. In addition, we are proposing an amendment to Form N-CEN applicable to all Index Funds, as defined in Form N-CEN, to provide identifying information about the index.

2) May 25 (press release 2022-91) -- SEC Proposes Rule Changes to Prevent Misleading or Deceptive Fund Names

The Securities and Exchange Commission today proposed amendments to enhance and modernize the Investment Company Act “Names Rule” to address changes in the fund industry and compliance practices that have developed in the approximately 20 years since the rule was adopted. A fund’s name is an important marketing tool and can have a significant impact on investors’ decisions when selecting investments, and the Names Rule addresses fund names that are likely to mislead investors about a fund’s investments and risks. The proposal follows a request for comment the SEC issued to gather public feedback on potential reforms to the rule in March 2020.

“A lot has happened in our capital markets in the past two decades. As the fund industry has developed, gaps in the current Names Rule may undermine investor protection,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “In particular, some funds have claimed that the rule does not apply to them — even though their name suggests that investments are selected based on specific criteria or characteristics. Today’s proposal would modernize the Names Rule for today’s markets.”

The Names Rule currently requires registered investment companies whose names suggest a focus in a particular type of investment (among other areas) to adopt a policy to invest at least 80 percent of the value of their assets in those investments (an “80 percent investment policy”). The proposed amendments would enhance the rule’s protections by requiring more funds to adopt an 80 percent investment policy. Specifically, the proposed amendments would extend the requirement to any fund name with terms suggesting that the fund focuses in investments that have (or whose issuers have) particular characteristics. This would include fund names with terms such as “growth” or “value” or terms indicating that the fund’s investment decisions incorporate one or more environmental, social, or governance factors. The amendments also would limit temporary departures from the 80 percent investment requirement and clarify the rule’s treatment of derivative investments.

The proposing release will be published in the Federal Register. The comment period will remain open for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Fact sheet excerpt:

Materially Deceptive and Misleading Use of ESG Terminology  Under the proposal, a fund that considers ESG factors alongside but not more centrally than other, non-ESG factors in its investment decisions would not be permitted to use ESG or similar terminology in its name. Doing so would be defined to be materially deceptive or misleading. For such “integration funds,” the ESG factors are generally no more significant than other factors in the investment selection process, such that ESG factors may not be determinative in deciding to include or exclude any particular investment in the portfolio.

News release: https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2022-91
Fact Sheet: https://www.sec.gov/files/ic-34593-fact-sheet.pdf

June 17 -- Proposed Rule (58 pages): https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-11742 Comments due by August 16, 2022.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) is proposing to amend the rule under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “Investment Company Act” or the “Act”) that addresses certain broad categories of investment company names that are likely to mislead investors about an investment company's investments and risks. The proposed amendments to this rule are designed to increase investor protection by improving and clarifying the requirement for certain funds to adopt a policy to invest at least 80% of their assets in accordance with the investment focus that the fund's name suggests, updating the rule's notice requirements, and establishing recordkeeping requirements. The Commission also is proposing enhanced prospectus disclosure requirements for terminology used in fund names, and additional requirements for funds to report information on Form N-PORT regarding compliance with the proposed names-related regulatory requirements.

3) Wall Street Journal, SEC Proposes More Disclosure Requirements for ESG Funds: Agency votes to float plans to give investors more information on environmental, social and corporate-governance vehicles (5/25) https://www.wsj.com/articles/sec-to-propose-more-disclosure-requirements-for-esg-funds-11653498000?st=zmyy80ar4td3gyv&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

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