Apple backs wide emissions disclosure rules

(Reuters) -Apple Inc on Tuesday called for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require companies to disclose far-reading emissions information such as how customers use their products, according to a tweet from Apple Vice President Lisa Jackson.

The comments by the iPhone maker mark the most specific prescription to date from a large public company about what disclosures are needed, said Veena Ramani, senior program director for Ceres, a Boston-based climate advocacy group.

The SEC last month said it will seek input on how companies might report on their greenhouse gas emissions and other climate factors.

Investors have poured money into funds that use environmental, social and governance factors to pick stocks, but a lack of common standards has made it hard to compare issuers’ operations.

Jackson, a former U.S. environmental regulator, in her tweet included a statement that Apple “believes that the SEC should issue rules to require that companies disclose third-party-audited emissions information to the public, covering all scopes of emissions, direct and indirect, and the value chain.”

An Apple spokeswoman confirmed the phrasing referred to so-called Scope 3 emissions like those resulting from the use of a company’s products by other parties. While that can be simple for technology or finance companies to provide, calls to publish the data can be controversial for other industries.

In reporting its Scope 3 emissions in January for the first time, oil major ExxonMobil Corp wrote that the data “is less certain and less consistent because it includes the indirect emissions resulting from the consumption and use of a company’s products occurring outside of its control.”

Various other business leaders have previously called for mandatory climate disclosures including Larry Fink, CEO of top investor BlackRock Inc. In February, BlackRock also urged heavy polluters to disclose their Scope 3 emissions to investors, like the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures has also recommended.

In addition, Apple was among hundreds of companies that on Tuesday pressured the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in San FranciscoEditing by Bill Berkrot and Matthew Lewis

Coinbase gets green light from SEC for direct listing on Nasdaq

(Reuters) – Coinbase Global Inc, the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, has received approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to list its shares on the Nasdaq, paving the way for what will be a landmark victory for cryptocurrency advocates.

Coinbase said in a blog post that its shares were declared effective by the SEC earlier on Thursday. The company, which plans to go public through a so-called direct listing, expects to list its shares on the Nasdaq under the ticker ‘COIN’ on April 14.

Exclusive: China urges U.S. to stop ‘discriminatory’ action against its firms

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Thursday urged the United States to stop “discriminatory” action against Chinese companies after the U.S. adopted measures that would kick foreign companies off stock exchanges if they do not comply with U.S. auditing standards.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the U.S. measures distort market principles.

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SEC sues California trader for social media fraud scheme

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday charged a California-based trader for allegedly spreading false information about a defunct company via Twitter, while profiting by selling his own holdings of the company’s stock.

The SEC alleged Andrew L. Fassari, or @OCMillionaire on Twitter, tweeted false statements about Arcis Resources Corporation during December 2020, shortly after purchasing over 41 million shares of the stock, the SEC said in a statement.

SEC warns against investing in SPACs based solely on celebrity backing

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) cautioned investors on Wednesday about buying shares of so-called special purpose acquisition companies only because they are backed by celebrities, including movie stars and athletes.

Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, are shell companies which raise funds to acquire a private entity with the aim of taking it public, allowing such companies to sidestep a traditional IPO to enter public markets.

The SEC said a celebrity endorsement of a SPAC does not necessarily make it a safe bet for investors. Celebrities, like others, can be enticed into a risky investment, but they may be better able to sustain the risk of losses, the securities regulator added.

“It is never a good idea to invest in a SPAC just because someone famous sponsors or invests in it or says it is a good investment,” the SEC said. (bit.ly/3bxVZyM)

The recent SPAC frenzy has attracted the attention of a number of mainstream celebrity figures such as rap star Jay-Z, tennis legend Serena Williams and National Basketball Association Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal who have either sponsored their own blank-check firms or joined the boards of other SPACs.

Blockchain firm Ripple sees no fallout in Asia Pacific from SEC lawsuit

TOKYO – Blockchain payments firm Ripple has not experienced any fallout in its Asia Pacific business after being sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company’s chief executive officer said on Friday.

In late December, the SEC charged Ripple, which is associated with cryptocurrency XRP, with conducting a $1.3 billion unregistered securities offering.

After that, the top U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase shut down trading in XRP, which is the world’s seventh-largest cryptocurrency by market value.

“It (the lawsuit) has hindered activity in the United States, but it has not really impacted what’s going on for us in Asia Pacific,” Brad Garlinghouse, Ripple’s chief executive officer, told Reuters in a video interview from California.

“We have been able to continue to grow the business in Asia and Japan because we’ve had regulatory clarity in those markets,” he said, adding that he did not know of any exchange outside the United States that had halted XRP trading.

“XRP is traded on over 200 exchanges around the world. It’s really only three or four exchanges in the United States that have halted trading,” he said.

Garlinghouse was one of two of the firm’s executives alleged by the SEC in December of personally gaining about $600 million received from the unregistered offering.

Financial regulators around the world are looking to decide how they should regulate the cryptocurrency industry.

The outcome of their assessments could determine whether cryptocurrencies will grow into mainstream assets or remain niche products.

Gary Gensler, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the SEC, promised during his congressional confirmation hearing to provide “guidance and clarity” to the cyptocurrency market.

While bitcoin is considered a commodity by U.S. financial regulators, most other cryptocurrencies have yet to be classified as commodities or securities.

Ripple has signed more than 15 new contracts with banks globally since the SEC brought its lawsuit, Garlinghouse said, adding that he believed the lack of clarity in the United States has been a “hindrance” to innovation.

“We’re seeing the activity of XRP liquidity has grown outside the United States and continue to grow in Asia, certainly in Japan,” he said.

Biden’s top financial regulatory picks to face scrutiny in Congress

U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominees to head two key financial watchdogs will be questioned by lawmakers on Tuesday on how they plan to tackle racial and income inequality, climate change, fintech regulation, cryptocurrencies, corporate enforcement and other issues.

Gary Gensler, the White House’s nominee to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Rohit Chopra, nominated to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), will appear before the Democratic-led Senate Banking Committee.

Progressives see the agencies as key to advancing policy priorities on climate change and social justice and expect the pair, both experienced corporate regulators, to take a tough line on Wall Street. Republicans have criticized Biden for bowing to leftists and have warned that Gensler and Chopra will be divisive if confirmed to the positions.

“These are both going to be key officials setting financial policy for Team Biden. For Gensler, the focus will be on investor protection and how the SEC should respond to GameStop-related market volatility. For Chopra, it will be about his vision for the agency and his enforcement priorities,” said Jaret Seiberg, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group.

In prepared remarks posted on Monday, the two nominees vowed to be diligent stewards of the watchdogs without delving into specifics.

As head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Gensler implemented new swaps trading rules created by Congress in 2010 in response to the global financial crisis, developing a reputation as a tough operator willing to stand up to powerful Wall Street interests.

He will join the agency in the wake of January’s social media-fueled trading frenzy in shares of video-game retail firm GameStop Corp and is likely to be grilled on how he will tackle issues raised by the saga. That includes the practice of betting that stocks will fall, or shorting, potential market manipulation on social media, and how retail brokers handle customer orders, analysts said.

Democrats will also likely push Gensler to commit to new corporate disclosures on climate change risks and political spending, and to complete executive compensation curbs. Whether the SEC will take a tougher line on cryptocurrency offerings and investments is also expected to be a focus for lawmakers, analysts said.

WALL STREET-FRIENDLY RULES

Currently a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, where he campaigned for tougher consumer privacy and enforcement penalties, Chopra helped establish the CFPB, which was formally launched in 2011.

Democrats will want to know Chopra’s plans for reviving the agency after the Trump administration weakened enforcement and several rules. Republicans are likely to query him on whether the CFPB overstepped its authority in the past.

Chopra will also likely be asked about gaps in minorities’ access to credit, exorbitant lending rates and abusive debt-collection practices, analysts said.

Progressives also want to repeal Wall Street-friendly rules introduced by former President Donald Trump’s regulators and may push Chopra to revisit payday lending and debt-collection rules that they say won’t protect Americans. Gensler may be pressed on reviewing SEC rules governing investment advisers and shareholder voting rights.

“Barring a major meltdown during this hearing, both Gensler and Chopra will be confirmed in the coming weeks and we will begin to see material changes at both the SEC and CFPB,” said Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at Washington-based Compass Point Research & Trading.

SEC launches review of companies’ climate risk disclosures

(Reuters) – The acting chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday said the market regulator will review public companies’ climate risk disclosures and begin to modernize climate guidance that is now more than a decade old.

The agency’s staff will review the extent to which public companies address topics related to climate change matters and assess companies’ compliance with their disclosure requirements, Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee said in a statement.

The SEC will use the review to update guidance on climate change matters from 2010, taking into account developments of the last decade, Lee said.

Scientists’ warnings about risks from climate change have grown over the last ten years, but companies’ methodologies for calculating those risks are inadequate and inconsistent, advocates for more disclosure like the Center for American Progress have said.

The board of the International Organization of Securities Commissions separately on Wednesday said it sees an urgent need for globally consistent and reliable sustainability disclosures.

Lee herself has criticized the SEC’s lack of clear guidance on Environmental, Social, and Governance – known as ESG – disclosures, saying in August that many market participants use the rubric as a “significant driver in decision-making.”

U.S. securities regulator sues Morningstar over unlawful disclosure

(Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday sued Morningstar Credit Ratings LLC for allegedly violating U.S. securities laws in rating commercial mortgage-backed securities, the regulator said in a statement.

Morningstar allegedly violated disclosure and internal controls requirements in 30 commercial mortgage-backed securities transactions from 2015 to 2016 when the agency allowed analysts to make undisclosed adjustments to key stresses in its modeling, the SEC said.

Counsel for Morningstar could not be reached immediately for comment.

SEC studies social media posts for signs of fraud in GameStop frenzy: Bloomberg

The U.S. securities regulator is reviewing social media posts for signs of potential fraud in frenzied trading of GameStop Corp’s and other companies’ shares, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s examination of online posts is being done in tandem with a review of trading data to assess whether such posts were part of a manipulative effort to drive up share prices, the report said. A Reddit-driven rally has inflated stock prices for a number of previously downtrodden companies. (bloom.bg/3jgts2R)

A spokesperson for the SEC did not respond immediately to request for comment.

Earlier in the week, the SEC’s acting chair Allison Herren Lee said the agency is working “around the clock” to root out any potential market manipulation in the market volatility. Lee said in an interview with National Public Radio earlier this week that the current situation may be a “little bit more challenging” than the SEC’s typical work.

Users in the Reddit forum WallStreetBets have been encouraging buying of GameStop, AMC and other stocks, causing short-term surges in shares. Shares of GameStop rallied nearly 400% and have since tumbled about 80% from last week’s highs.

U.S. securities law bars the dissemination of any false or misleading information aimed at manipulating investors into buying or selling securities, and regulators have been expected to explore whether Reddit was used to do so.