The Securities and Exchange Commission is growing like Godzilla

Congress created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1934 to prevent another stock market crash like the one in October 1929 that plunged America into the Great Depression.  The SEC has a very simple mission: "Protect Investors; Maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets; Facilitate capital formation."  Last week, however, the SEC's commissioners floated the idea of giving themselves a new power, one that Congress never contemplated: forcing America's publicly traded companies to change their business practices to fight climate change.  While it's questionable what woke companies will do, what they ought to do is push back on the ground that the SEC lacks the authority to make such a demand.

The SEC itself fully understands what its role is.  It even has a web page headlined "The Role of the SEC."  It was on that page that I found the mission statement I quoted above.

On the same page, the SEC explains Congress's goal in creating the SEC:

When the stock market crashed in October 1929, so did public confidence in the U.S. markets. Congress held hearings to identify the problems and search for solutions. Based on its findings, Congress — in the peak year of the Depression — passed the Securities Act of 1933. The following year, it passed the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which created the SEC.

The main purposes of these laws can be reduced to two common-sense notions:

  • Companies offering securities for sale to the public must tell the truth about their business, the securities they are selling, and the risks involved in investing in those securities.
  • Those who sell and trade securities — brokers, dealers, and exchanges — must treat investors fairly and honestly.

The proposed SEC rule, per the SEC's press release,

would require registrants to include certain climate-related disclosures in their registration statements and periodic reports, including information about climate-related risks that are reasonably likely to have a material impact on their business, results of operations, or financial condition, and certain climate-related financial statement metrics in a note to their audited financial statements. The required information about climate-related risks also would include disclosure of a registrant's greenhouse gas emissions, which have become a commonly used metric to assess a registrant's exposure to such risks.

SEC chair Gary Gensler claims that this rule would "provide investors with consistent, comparable, and decision-useful information for making their investment decisions."  In other words, it's just information...

But of course, it isn't just information.  These disclosures are intended to force companies, for fear of public shaming in a woke world, to change their business practices in costly and ineffective ways to fight chimerical climate change, an all-purpose Marxist idea aimed at shifting total economic control to the government.

Image: SEC Office by D Ramey Logan.  CC BY 4.0.

Forcing companies to change their business practices is not under the SEC's mandate.  Its role is to ensure only that companies don't lie about their freely chosen business practices: what they're doing, the nature of the securities they're selling on the stock market, and the risks involved.  That's it.  That's the SEC's mandate.

If companies want to boast about their climate change practices, they're free to do so.  However, there is nothing in the Securities and Exchange Act, or any of its amendments, that gives the SEC the power to force such practices.

The problem is that our congresspeople are so gosh-darned lazy.  We know that they don't read the bills they pass because, in the last several years, they've repeatedly passed zillion-page bills that they clearly could not have and did not read.  Moreover, many of these bills come directly from lobbyists without any contribution from the people's representatives.

Perhaps even more egregiously, Congress is perfectly happy to let the Executive Branch (all those federal agencies) pass regulations that have the effect of laws, which is highly unconstitutional.  And for more than 200 years, ever since John Marshall arrogated to the Supreme Court the unconstitutional authority to decide what's constitutional and what isn't, Congress has allowed the Supreme Court to run roughshod over it, giving nine unelected, increasingly radical, arrogant, and ill informed people the most powerful roles in America.

If the Republicans manage to take Congress, they need to walk back all the unconstitutional powers federal agencies have taken for themselves, something that can probably best be done by cutting their budgets by 50% or more.

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