SEC is criticized for lax enforcement of climate risk disclosure

The New York Times reports: As recently as 2011, shares in Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest private sector coal company, traded at the equivalent of $1,000. Today, they hover around $4 each. Over that time, investors who held the stock lost millions.

Peabody, like other coal companies, has been hammered as cheap natural gas erodes the demand for coal. But concerns about climate change are also an issue for the company as customers and investors turn away from fossil fuels.

Peabody saw this coming. Even as the company privately projected that coal demand would slump and prices would fall, it withheld this information from investors. Instead, Peabody said in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was not possible to know how changing attitudes toward climate change would affect its business.

Peabody’s double talk was revealed as part of a two-year investigation by the New York attorney general. In a settlement in November, Peabody agreed that it would disclose more about climate change risks in its regular filings with the S.E.C.

In theory, however, Peabody should have been making such disclosures all along. [Continue reading…]

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