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November 27, 2012
SEC Chairman Schapiro to Step Down
by Robert Kropp
As Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission since early 2009, Mary Schapiro dealt with
the aftermath of the financial crisis and the implementation of new regulations mandated by
Mary Schapiro, the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), announced that she
will be stepping down next month from the post she has held since being appointed by President
Obama in January, 2009. She will be replaced by Elisse Walter, currently an SEC commissioner.
Schapiro became Chairman of the Commission at a time when the national economy was still
convulsed by the financial crisis. The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,
signed into law in 2010, mandated that the SEC engage "in one of the busiest rulemaking periods in
decades," the Commission noted in a press release announcing Schapiro's
The Commission found many allies in the sustainable investment community
for regulations addressing shareowner votes on executive compensation packages, payments made by
companies in the extractive industries, and disclosure by US corporations on the presence in their
products of conflict minerals smuggled out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by armed
Guidance on climate change disclosure, issued by the Commission in 2010, was
hailed by Lisa Woll, CEO of US SIF: The Forum for
Sustainable and Responsible Investment, as "perhaps the biggest development so far in the
long-term campaign to promote wider sustainability reporting."
Yet, Schapiro's term was
also marked by well-funded efforts by industry trade groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce to
undermine implementation of many regulations through the filing of lawsuits. The US Court of
Appeals in Washington DC sided with the Chamber in 2011 when it overturned an important proxy
access rule that would have allowed shareowners who have owned at least three percent of a company
for at least three years to have their nominees for boards of directors included in corporate proxy
Earlier this month, however, the SEC refused the request of the Chamber and
other trade groups to delay implementation of the rule governing payments to governments. The
groups wanted the rules delayed until a lawsuit they filed was heard by the courts.
the past four years we have brought a record number of enforcement actions, engaged in one of the
busiest rulemaking periods, and gained greater authority from Congress to better fulfill our
mission," Schapiro said.
Until President Obama appoints a fifth commissioner,
deliberations at the SEC could well be marked by political deadlock. Sustainable investors and
other governance advocates have asked the Commission to investigate whether Chevron has violated
securities laws by failing to report to shareowners the materiality of a $19 billion judgment
against it for environmental crimes in Ecuador. In the aftermath of Citizens United, investors have
also called on the SEC to regulate corporate political spending.
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