Saturday, January 30, 2010

SEC to require disclosures on global warming risks

Yes, that's right, the SEC has announced that it wants public companies to try to estimate the risk that global warming poses for their assets or operations! No, I didn't get this off The Onion News Network either! Just do a Google Search and you will see articles in The NY Times and elsewhere.

So what does this mean? I suppose, for example, if the company believes it is too close to the rising oceans and could be under water sometime in the next millennium then it needs to disclose that risk! Also, if a company believes legislation on global warming could negatively impact future earnings then the company needs to disclose that risk.

I personally think that the effects of global warming are so hard to predict that companies could comply with this requirement in one sentence: "The effects of global warming or legislation related to global warming on the Company's assets or operations are not estimable in any reliable way." Seems like some wasted ink to me. Maybe the SEC wants companies to say something like: "The impact on the environment from the extra paper necessary to disclose the possible effects of global warming will not lead to any serious litigation since the company is required by the SEC to go through this silly exercise!"

We can only assume that the SEC will be spending time and money reviewing these disclosures to determine if companies are sufficiently complying. Never mind that they had their hands full and failed to regulate some huge Ponzi schemes such as those operated by Bernie Madoff and R. Allen Stanford before investors lost tens of billions in these schemes! Is this really a priority?!

It seems that investors have serious risks of fraud in this world. Scammers such as Madoff, Pang, Stanford, and companies such as Enron, Worldcom and Satyam need to be regulated and shut down. The SEC needs adequate resources to do these jobs and it has appeared to lack the necessary funding for decades. However, if this is their focus in the future then I question whether voters will sympathize with their calls for additional funding!

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