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GOP lawmakers press SEC chair over coming climate rule

Gary Gensler

(Reuters) — Republican lawmakers on Wednesday prodded Wall Street’s top regulator to justify his agency’s efforts to regulate companies’ climate disclosures and criticized the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for what they said was hasty rulemaking.

In an appearance before a House of Representatives panel overseeing federal spending, SEC Chair Gary Gensler defended the agency's request for a 12% budget increase to respond to burgeoning growth in financial markets and the mounting risk of misconduct.

Mr. Gensler said that, with the frequency of stock trades and volume of privately managed assets soaring, “We must be able to meet the match of bad actors.” He also described cryptocurrency markets as a “wild West” that was “rife with non-compliance.”

It was his first testimony since Republicans took control of the lower chamber of Congress in November, bringing some of his staunchest critics into the majority.

Conservative lawmakers and commentators have cast Mr. Gensler as an interventionist regulator saddling markets with left-leaning social policies unrelated to making money.

The SEC last year proposed requiring publicly traded companies to disclose climate-related financial impacts, including physical risks from weather events, as well as carbon emissions that they, their energy providers and their suppliers produce. The agency cited widespread demand and emerging consensus among international regulators.

Industry fiercely opposed aspects of the rule, including farmers who fear they may have to report emissions to customers covered by the rule. Republican lawmakers also repeatedly disputed the securities regulator's legal authority to mandate climate disclosures.

“Why is the SEC getting involved in emissions with this climate change?” asked Alabama Republican Jerry Carl. “I'm not a fan of it.”

Mr. Gensler said investors by and large now demand and many companies are providing climate disclosures.