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Government watchdog FOIA lawsuit reveals ESG discussions at SEC with outside groups

FOIA documents received by the Functional Government Initiative revealed ESG discussions between the former acting SEC chair and several outside groups.

FIRST ON FOX: A government watchdog’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed environmental, social, and governance (ESG) discussions at the highest levels of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Government watchdog the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) sued the SEC after the commission did not fulfill a FOIA request submitted by them and received their first set of documents last week.

"The first documents from FGI’s transparency lawsuit confirm the Biden administration’s ESG efforts were long in the making," FGI communications director Peter McGinnis told Fox News Digital.


"They were driven in part by California’s public retirement fund, Calpers, who lobbied President Biden’s first SEC chair on ESG even before the 2020 election," McGinnis continued. "Despite the questionable success in Calpers’ first decade of ESG activism, the Biden administration seems to have been all in from the start."

"As we continue to get more records from the SEC, the public is likely to find out to what extent California’s pension system and other activists were able to influence President Biden’s policy agenda," he added.

The FOIA documents, exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital, reveal conversations between then-SEC acting chairwoman Allison Lee’s office with outside groups discussing ESG initiatives, including corporate reporting and panel appearances discussing the progressive business ideology.

In 2020, Lee’s office engaged in correspondence with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) regarding "an opportunity to prepare for climate risk reporting through interpreting US [Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)] to incorporate the relevant issues."

"The International Accounting Standards Board has issued guidance which sets out how the [Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TFCD)] advice on climate risk reporting is required by [International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)] and if US GAAP were to be considered with the same approach, then investors would have vitally important information on both drivers of risk and value creation," one October 2020 email reads.

The emails also revealed that Lee had a phone call in October 2020 with CalPERS regarding ESG and that CalPERS also reached out to Lee’s office for a "quick check in" in January 2021, noting they were "having discussions across various aspects of the ESG, or sustainable capitalism agenda more broadly and it would be helpful to update on the developments in US and internationally."

Additionally, Lee appeared on a CERAWeek panel with IHS Markit titled "ESG: What should be the metrics," and her office made an odd request for a question on her personal background during an email briefing.

"We would request that you strike the first question from those planned for Allison," the email read. "Otherwise, these look good and thank you for formulating them."

The question asked to be stricken was: "I understand you grew up in the oil patch. Tell our audience about your background."

An SEC spokesperson told Fox News Digital, "Commissioner Lee left the SEC in June of last year, so we’d refer you to her on questions regarding her time at the agency."

"As it relates to rulemaking, you can find copies of each of our proposals on our website," the spokesperson said. "As part of the rulemaking process, we solicit feedback from the public, and we consider all comments submitted to the agency while the comment period is open."

"Those comments and any meetings that the staff or Commissioners have regarding ongoing rulemakings are posted to our website," the spokesperson said.

President Biden caught heat last month after he used the first veto of his presidency to block a bipartisan anti-ESG resolution.

The bipartisan resolution sought to strike down a new Labor Department rule encouraging retirement fiduciaries to consider environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues in their investments. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., blasted Biden for the veto, saying, "President Biden is choosing to put his administration’s progressive agenda above the well-being of the American people."

Biden tweeted a video of himself discussing the veto and trying to blame "MAGA Republicans" for it.

Fox News Digital's Alexander Hall contributed reporting.

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