GOP Resolutions Aim to Overturn SEC’s Climate Rule

Dual Republican House and Senate resolutions introduced this week take aim at the recent climate risk disclosure rule from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As the 2024 election season gets underway, the resolutions delineate the parties’ different views on climate policy and their clashing perspectives on the scope of agencies’ regulatory authority. (Senate and House resolutions | PoliticoPro, April 17)  

Political Differences

  • The partisan effort to overturn the SEC’s rule will not garner significant support from Democrats and the resolution is unlikely to pass the Senate. However, the resolutions have rallied Republicans to advance their message that the Biden administration’s SEC frequently steps outside the bounds of its regulatory authority. (The Hill and Bloomberg Law, April 17)
  • Banking Committee Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) leads the effort in the Senate. “The SEC’s mission is to regulate our capital markets and ensure all Americans can safely share in their economic success — not to force a partisan climate agenda on American businesses,” he said in a statement.
  • Scott’s resolution has the support of 33 Republicans. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is the lone Democrat co-sponsor. (PoliticoPro, April 17).
  • Democratic support for the SEC’s rule includes Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “I applaud the SEC for acting to address climate risks to protect workers, investors, and our economy,” Brown said after the SEC rule was released last March. (Senate Banking news release)
  • On the House side, Financial Services Committee Republicans advanced a similar resolution along a party-line vote on April 17. Committee Member Bill Huizenga (R-MI) introduced the House resolution. (Climate Wire, April 18)

Legal Pause in Effect

SEC logo and text
  • Numerous lawsuits challenging the SEC’s rule are now consolidated in federal court. The SEC agreed to stay its climate rule while litigation is pending. (Climate Wire, April 5)
  • House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-SC) said “[t]he SEC’s stay of the rule is not enough” and that congressional action is warranted, crystallizing the political nature of the issue.

If the SEC’s rule eventually takes effect, registered companies would have to include certain climate-related disclosures in annual Form 10-Ks. Notably, the final SEC rule did not include Scope 3 disclosures, which affirmed a position strongly advocated by The Roundtable. (Roundtable Fact Sheet, March 12 and Roundtable Weekly, March 8)

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Lawsuits Mount Against SEC Climate Rules

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) headquarters in Washington, DC.

Almost two dozen Republican-led states have sued the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over its climate corporate disclosure rules released last week. (Bloomberg Law, March 12 – paywall | Roundtable Weekly, March 8)

Litigation Gauntlet

  • GOP attorneys general in 22 states allege the SEC acted beyond its authority by requiring companies to report certain GHG emissions and costs related to extreme weather.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce joined the “legal salvo” against the SEC. (POLITICO, March 15).
  • An SEC spokesperson stated the agency will “vigorously defend” petitions filed in the federal appeals courts for the Fifth, Eighth, and Eleventh Circuits. (Bloomberg Law, March 12)
  • These suits will likely rely on the “major questions” doctrine, raised in a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that curtailed EPA’s authority to fight climate change. The doctrine provides that a federal agency must have “clear” authority from Congress to regulate issues of “vast economic and political significance.” (E&E News ClimateWire, March 11)
  • Meanwhile, environmental groups filed their own counter-suit in the D.C. Circuit. They claim that the SEC’s rules are too “water[ed] down” and fail to provide investors with “material” information on a company’s financial exposure to climate risks. (Newsweek, March 14).
  • It will take months for the SEC to run this court gauntlet. The November elections could shape the legal outcome before the suits are resolved, depending on which party controls Congress or the White House.

RER “Fact Sheet”

The Real Estate Roundtable's March 12, 2024 Fact Sheet on  "What CRE Needs to Know" about the SEC's Climate Disclosure Rules.
  • Assuming the SEC’s rules are not delayed, the largest public companies must comply with climate-related disclosures in Form 10-Ks filed during fiscal year 2025. (SEC fact sheet, March 6)
  • The Real Estate Roundtable has issued its own fact sheet summarizing “What CRE Should Know” about the SEC’s final climate disclosure rules. (RER Fact Sheet, updated March 12).

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) continues to study the new SEC regulations and plans to hold educational sessions at its June 21 meeting in Washington as part of RER’s annual meeting.

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SEC Releases Climate Disclosure Rules

SEC logo and text

On March 6, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released long-awaited final “Climate Disclosure Rules” that establish federal regulations for registered companies to disclose climate-related financial risks and opportunities. The Real Estate Roundtable has prepared a fact sheet summarizing “What CRE Should Know” about the new SEC rules.

Overview of the SEC Rules

  • The rules require certain registrants to report “material” financial impacts to address storms, wildfires, sea level rise, and other events attributable to climate change (SEC news release, March 6)
  • Certain climate-related expenses and costs must be quantified and disclosed in audited financial statements filed annually as part of Form 10-K.
  • The rules also expand disclosures in narrative “items” included in a 10-K, such as descriptions of “physical” and “transition” risks from extreme weather and related events.
  • The SEC’s final rules impose no requirements to report Scope 3 emissions from sources in a company’s “value chain” – following the position advocated by the Roundtable in 2022 comments. (Roundtable Weekly, June 10, 2022)
  • “The SEC’s decision to drop proposed Scope 3 reporting was the right move,” said Roundtable President and CEO, Jeff DeBoer. “It would have imposed onerous financial and paperwork burdens for commercial real estate owners and failed to produce reliable and useful emission information for investors.”
  • The Climate Disclosure Rules phase-in and ramp-up over time. The largest companies (in terms of the amount of shares held by public investors) must start complying in 2025. (RER Fact Sheet)

Impacts on CRE 

The Roundtable’s Fact Sheet on the SEC’s Climate Disclosure Rules
  • CRE registrants should become familiar with the new rules if they voluntarily set corporate “targets” to reduce emissions in their buildings or portfolios, or own assets located in cities or states with building performance mandates.
  • Companies that purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) or carbon offsets may also be subject to SEC disclosures.
  • CRE owners and financial firms with “lifecycle” cap ex investment plans for building electrification may also be subject to new reporting.
  • The SEC’s rules do not preempt similar state requirements. For example, companies regulated by California’s climate disclosure laws passed in 2022 must satisfy those rules in addition to SEC rules. (Roundtable summary of the California legislation and Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 22)
  • The courts may ultimately decide the legality of the SEC’s actions. Institutional investors might move the market toward the SEC’s rules even if they are stalled or struck in court.

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) will continue to assess the implications of the SEC’s rules and convene our members to develop industry standards and practices for compliance.

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Congress Punts Funding Deadlines … SEC to Vote March 6 on Climate Disclosures … Roundtable Urges EB-5 Guidance Correction

A bill passed by both chambers of Congress yesterday and signed by President Biden today punts a set of government funding deadlines to March 8 and 22, thereby preventing a partial government shutdown that was scheduled to start at midnight. (ABC News, March 1 | House bill text)

New Stopgap Goals

  • The new two-tiered stopgap bill gives policymakers some time to negotiate a full-year appropriations bill as a House-passed tax package is under consideration in the Senate. (See tax story below).
  • On Wednesday, congressional leaders announced the deal, which extends funding for the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Energy, Transportation, and others from March 1 through March 8. The bill also extends funding for the Pentagon, Health and Human Services, Labor, and other agencies from March 8 through March 22.

SEC to Vote March 6 on Climate Rule

  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a vote next week on whether it will adopt final rules requiring companies to provide certain climate-related information in their registration statements and annual reports.
  • The SEC’s “open meeting” to consider the climate rule will take place on Wednesday, March 6 at 9:45 am and will be webcast at www.sec.gov.

Roundtable Urges Congress to Correct EB-5 Guidance

  • The Real Estate Roundtable urged the leaders of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees this week to correct defective “guidance” enacted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that is undermining the EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act of 2022 (RIA). [Roundtable EB-5 letter, Feb. 28, 2024]
  • The USCIS’s arbitrary guidance states that EB-5 investments made after RIA’s enactment must “remain invested for at least two years.” This position contradicts regulations kept by USCIS on its rulebooks for decades.
  • RER’s letter also explains that USCIS’s defective guidance exacerbates CRE’s current liquidity issues. For example, the agency’s position effectively eliminates the availability of EB-5 investment capital to help finance projects to convert underutilized commercial buildings to multifamily housing.  

The Roundtable is calling on Congress to correct the error with a short statutory change that codifies the long-standing regulatory approach, which couples the periods for EB-5 capital sustainment and conditional residency.

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Federal Initiatives on Buildings, Climate Gaining Momentum Ahead of 2024 Elections

The White House

The Biden-Harris administration is accelerating actions at the intersection of climate and real estate policy in the lead-up to November’s elections to implement its signature clean energy legislation passed during its first years in office. RER’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) remains engaged with policymakers on a variety of initiatives coalescing in 2024 that include the following:

Climate-Related Financial Risk

  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expected to issue a final rule this spring for registered companies to disclose financial risks from climate change.(RER fact sheet and Roundtable Weekly, March 10, 2023).
  • Scope 3 “indirect” emissions from sources in a company’s supply chain are controversial elements of the anticipated SEC rule. RER’s 2022 comments urged the Commission to drop its “back door mandate” for Scope 3 disclosures. (Roundtable Weekly, June 10, 2022)
  • Litigation against the SEC’s imminent rule is widely expected. A recent lawsuit filed by industry groups against a California disclosure package passed last summer (modeled after the SEC’s proposal) signals similar claims that the federal government might face in court. (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 30 and RER fact sheet)

Voluntary Frameworks

EPA's NextGen Building Label
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will accept applications for its NextGen building label starting in September. (EPA slides to SPAC, Jan 24) ENERGY STAR assets will be NextGen-eligible if they also meet an emissions “target” and source 30 percent of energy use to renewable power. (RER fact sheet)
  • NextGen certification may serve as an “intermediate step” for buildings that strive for a voluntary Zero Emissions Building (“ZEB”) definition coming from the U.S. Energy Department. Recent comments from RER and Nareit maintain that the federal ZEB definition can lend consistency to the confusing state-local regulatory patchwork of building performance standards. (Roundtable Weekly, Feb 2.)
  • EPA is acting on requests to update Portfolio Manager, CRE’s standard tool to measure metrics for building efficiency and emissions. Portfolio Manager upgrades announced at last month’s SPAC meeting will help real estate companies strive for NextGen or ZEB status. (Coalition letter, Sept. 14, 2023)
  • This spring, the influential GHG Protocol—an international framework heavily relied upon by the SEC, EPA, DOE, and institutional investors—will undertake its first revisions since 2015 to its guidance for companies to account for emissions from electricity use. RER will participate in the upcoming Scope 2 guidance public comment process.

Tax Incentives

Ben Myers, left, and Tony Malkin, right -- SPAC leadership
Roundtable Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee Chair Tony Malkin, right, and
Vice Chair Ben Myers
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued dozens of proposed rules and notices to implement clean energy tax incentives available to real estate and other sectors since Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022. (RER fact sheet)
  • The IRS is expected to release final rules before November on topics such as the ability of REITs to transfer certain tax credits, proposed rules on non-urban census tracts eligible for EV charging station credits, and the 179D deduction for building retrofits.
  • RER has submitted comments on these and other topics in response to initial IRS notices and will continue to provide feedback as opportunities arise. (RER letters Oct. 30 and July 28, 2023;  Nov. 4 and Dec. 2, 2022)

The Roundtable’s SPAC—led by Chair Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust) and Vice Chair Ben Myers (Senior Vice President of Sustainability, BXP)—will press forward with RER’s climate and energy priorities for the remainder of the current administration and into the next.

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Key House Democrats Urge SEC to Exempt Real Estate from Proposed Safeguarding Advisory Client Rule

SEC logo and text

A group of seven key Democrats from the House Appropriations Committee on Jan. 22 urged Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler to exempt real estate assets from a proposed “Custody” rule. The proposal would fundamentally change the ownership and transfer rights of real estate, and impose severe investment limitations on advisory clients. The congressional letter supports The Roundtable’s strong opposition to the rule. (Congressional letter)

Proposed “Qualified Custodian” Layer 

  • The SEC’s Safeguarding Advisory Client proposal would inject significant confusion into well-established transaction protections, rules, and procedures governing real estate transactions by imposing a new layer of unclear and unnecessary oversight. (SEC Rule proposal)
  • Current law (the “Custody Rule”) under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 requires an investment adviser to maintain clients’ funds and securities with a qualified custodian. The new proposed SEC rule would expand this requirement to maintain all advisory client assets with a qualified custodian. It is not possible to maintain other physical investments such as real estate with a qualified custodian.
  • The letter, led by Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY), noted the SEC has acknowledged that real estate assets may not be easily subject to theft or loss and therefore may not need safeguarding protections. Additionally, the letter states, “The ownership of a real estate asset is tracked by mortgages and deeds recorded by municipalities, further decreasing the likelihood of theft.”
  • The House Democrats also emphasized that the SEC’s proposal would materially inhibit investors’ access to real estate investment strategies through an advisor. The additional layer of unnecessary oversight would also compound pressures on residential and commercial real estate markets, which are currently constrained by a lack of affordable housing, high interest rates, and increased office vacancies.

Real Estate Exemption

Houston, Texas
  • The Appropriations Committee members’ letter requested “the Commission exclude real estate from the scope of any final rule.” They also stated that the Commission should not place additional pressure on residential and commercial real estate markets.
  • An Oct. 30, 2023 letter from Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer to the SEC reiterated the current legal protections that promote the safe-keeping of real estate assets held in advisory accounts or funds. DeBoer urged the SEC “… in the strongest possible terms to exclude real estate from the scope of any final [Safeguarding] rule,” citing the ample set of existing protections that prevent real estate assets from fraudulent transfer.  (Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 3, 2023)
  • The Roundtable and a diverse group of 25 trade associations previously wrote to SEC Chair Gary Gensler on Sept. 12, 2023 to oppose the Custody Rule proposal and explain the negative impacts it would have on investors, market participants, and the financial markets. 

Fed and OCC Voice Concerns

The Federal Reserve building in Washington, DC
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu recently expressed concerns over the SEC’s proposed expansion of existing custody regulations. (PoliticoPro, Feb. 2)
  • Powell and Hsu responded to a Nov. 1 inquiry from Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Monetary Policy. The Fed and OCC leaders stated that extending the SEC custody proposal to assets beyond “funds and securities” would require a significant change in custody practices at depository institutions.
  • Both regulators said their agencies are engaged with the SEC about the proposal. (Letters from Powell and Hsu via PoliticoPro)

The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) Custody Rule Working Group met with the SEC’s Division of Investment Management last November about the proposal and developed The Roundtable’s comments. Details about RECPAC’s next meeting this spring in New York City are forthcoming.

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Building Emissions Policies Picking Up Steam in 2024

A confluence of mandatory rules and voluntary guidelines pertaining to real estate’s climate impacts—including a first-ever U.S. definition for the term Zero Emissions Building (“ZEB”) and an imminent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) greenhouse gas disclosure rule—will be a key focus of policy makers in 2024.

ZEB Definition

  • On Jan. 9, GlobeSt reported that The Roundtable supports the direction of the Biden administration’s recently released voluntary ZEB draft definition pertinent to private sector existing buildings and new construction. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 5)
  • The ZEB definition proposes voluntary criteria for buildings to be highly energy efficient and powered solely by clean energy sources to attain zero emissions status.

  • The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) is working on comments (due Feb. 5) in response to the Energy Department’s draft.

SEC & Scope 3

  • The SEC is expected to release its long-anticipated climate risk disclosure rule this spring. (Roundtable Weekly, March 10, 2023) On Jan. 11, Bisnow quoted Roundtable Senior Vice President and Counsel Duane Desiderio about the SEC’s impending rule and its impact on CRE and other industries. 
  • Desiderio explained to Bisnow, “Let’s hope the SEC delivers some workable rules and brings rationality to this space, especially regarding Scope 3 indirect emissions” that cover sources in a company’s supply chain beyond its immediate control. Desiderio added, “The market is certainly moving in the direction of the SEC rule.” (RER Fact Sheets: SEC’s Proposed Rule and California’s Climate Disclosure bills)

179D & BPS

  • Another federal rule expected in the coming weeks concerns the section 179D tax deduction for energy efficient buildings, substantially revamped by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 1).The Internal Revenue Service will propose a regulation for comment that addresses how existing building retrofits may qualify for this incentive.
  • Axios (Jan. 9) reported this week about trends at the local level to enact building performance standards (BPS) such as LL 97 in New York City. While Congress has not granted authority for a national emissions mandate on buildings, more cities and states are expected to run with these efforts in 2024. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15).
  • A report from the Rhodium Group this week shows U.S. GHG emissions decreased nearly 2 percent year-on-year in 2023. The report also notes that emissions from commercial and residential buildings dropped by 4 percent, which the researchers attributed primarily to a mild winter. (PoliticoPro and The Hill, Jan. 10)  

SCOTUS to Consider Federal Agency “Deference”

The Supreme Court
  • A wild card in the effectiveness and durability of federal regulations—not just in the climate arena, but from any U.S. agency—will be at the fore this spring when SCOTUS renders a decision in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo.
  • Loper will consider whether an administrative law doctrine from 1984 known as “Chevron deference,” which grants wide latitude to federal agencies when crafting rules to implement laws passed by Congress, should be overruled. (SCOTUS Blog, May 1, 2023)
  • The Department of Commerce stated in their brief that overruling Chevron “would be a convulsive shock to the legal system.” Oral argument will take place next Wednesday, with a decision expected by early summer. (SCOTUS Blog, Jan. 8, 2024)

Officials from the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department and leading non-governmental organizations will address issues at the nexus of buildings and climate policy on January 24 at the Roundtable’s all-member 2024 State of the Industry Meeting.

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SEC Commissioner and Key Senators Support Further Analysis of Climate Disclosure Proposal

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) headquarters in Washington, DC

One of the commissioners from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and two U.S. Senators suggested this week that further analysis may be needed for a highly anticipated SEC rule on climate reporting, which includes a proposal for sweeping disclosures on Scope 3 GHG emissions. (Bloomberg Law, Nov. 7 | SEC headquarters in Washington, DC, above)

Stakeholder Comments

  • Given that the SEC has received more than 16,000 stakeholder comments on the proposal, Republican SEC Commissioner Mark Uyeda said, “Before the Commission adopts any final rule that significantly deviates from the proposal, it should seriously consider re-proposing the rule with revised rule text and an updated economic analysis.” (Ayuda’s comments, Nov. 7 and The Hill, April 6)
  • SEC Chair Chair Gary Gensler indicated in March that the agency’s climate-related reporting rule may be scaled back. (CNBC, March 7 and Roundtable Weekly, March 10)

Senators Support Additional Feedback

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), left 
Member, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
and Roundtable Board Member Geordy Johnson (CEO, The Johnson Group)
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), left, and Roundtable Board Member Geordy Johnson (CEO, The Johnson Group) at The Roundtable’s 2023 Annual Meeting in June.
  • Sens. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) also expressed support this week for obtaining additional feedback about the SEC’s proposed rule. Sen. Manchin chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Sen. Hagerty serves on the Senate Banking Committee. (Hagerty-Manchin letter and PoliticoPro, Nov. 9)
  • The lawmakers wrote to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler about recent California state laws that require companies to disclose their emissions, which beat the SEC to the punch on releasing final climate reporting rules. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 22 and The Real Estate Roundtable’s summary of the California legislation.)
  • The Senators’ letter states, “The interconnectedness of the California requirements and the SEC’s proposal is undeniable: thousands of businesses would end up being subject to both the California requirements and the SEC’s rule, if finalized. However, key differences between the two raise significant compliance questions that the SEC should thoroughly review.”

Roundtable Comments on Scope 3

Philadelphia center city
  • Scope 3 refers to indirect emissions that are part of an organization’s value chain but not owned or controlled by the reporting company. The 2022 SEC proposal would require corporate issuers of securities to estimate and report Scope 3 emissions “if material” in 10-Ks and other filings. (SEC News Release, March 22, 2022)
  • Roundtable comments submitted in June 2022 emphasized that the SEC’s proposed directive, which would mandate that companies report on Scope 3 emissions “only if material,” is a “back-door mandate” that should be dropped. The comment letter added, “No registrant should be effectively required to report on indirect emissions beyond its organizational or operational boundaries.” (Roundtable Weekly, June 10, 2022),

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) plans to respond to any further developments on the SEC’s proposed climate disclosure rule or other climate-related regulatory proposals affecting CRE.

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Roundtable Urges SEC to Exempt Real Estate from Proposed Safeguarding Advisory Client Rule

Securities and Exchange Commission building

The Real Estate Roundtable urged the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this week to exempt real estate from a proposed Safeguarding Advisory Client Rule that could severely limit advisory clients’ ability to invest by fundamentally changing the ownership and transfer rights of real estate. The proposed rule currently includes a conditional exception for real estate assets, which would impose a new layer of unclear and unnecessary oversight—and inject significant confusion into well-established transaction protections, rules, and procedures governing real estate transactions. (Roundtable letter, Oct. 30 and SEC Proposed Rule)

The “Proposing Release”

  • The Oct. 30 letter from Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer reiterated current legal protections that promote the safe-keeping of real estate assets held in advisory accounts or funds. DeBoer urged the SEC “… in the strongest possible terms to exclude real estate from the scope of any final [Safeguarding] rule,” citing the ample set of existing protections that prevent real estate assets from fraudulent transfer.
  • The letter also emphasized that the SEC has not coherently explained how the Proposed Safeguarding Rule would apply to real estate.
  • Current law (the “Custody Rule”) under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 requires an investment adviser to maintain clients’ funds and securities with a qualified custodian. The new proposed SEC rule would expand this requirement to maintain all advisory client assets with a qualified custodian.
  • Since it is not possible to maintain real estate and certain other physical investments with a qualified custodian, the proposal includes a conditional exception that includes the following language:

“In the real estate context, a deed or similar indicia of ownership that could be used to transfer beneficial ownership of a property would not qualify for the exception, but the physical buildings or land would qualify.”

  • The Roundtable’s letter challenges this “Proposing Release” as confusing, impractical, and unworkable for holding and transferring real estate deeds. It also conflicts with current state and country chain of custody legal requirements that govern real estate transactions.
  • The letter also notes the SEC could chose to make the conditional exemption available to real property, because a physical asset cannot be maintained with a qualified custodian. Additionally, the requirement to maintain custody of deeds with a qualified custodian—compared to recording the interest with a governmental authority—serves no regulatory purpose.

Existing Layers of Safeguards

SEC logo and text
  • Other existing safeguards come into play. State laws currently require signature verifications, notarizations, and accompanying IDs that provide significant hurdles to an attempted fraudulent transfer.
  • Modern real estate transactions in the United States also require buyers and lenders to obtain title insurance, which involves a title insurance company to engage in substantial due diligence of the chain of ownership. Real estate lawyers representing the buyer and/or seller represent yet another intermediary, since they are often involved in these asset transactions to provide yet another source of gatekeeper protections.
  • The Roundtable letter states the SEC must explain how it would be possible to maintain title or deed with a qualified custodian since the “Proposed Rule would fundamentally change the ownership and transfer rights of real estate.” The letter states the SEC should avoid any final rule that would limit clients’ access to, or unduly burden, investment in the real estate asset class.
  • The Proposing Release also contains no evaluation of any risk of loss for real estate assets—it only asserts such risk as a theoretical matter.
  • The Roundtable and a diverse group of 25 trade associations previously wrote to SEC Chair Gary Gensler to oppose the Safeguarding Advisory Client Rule proposal and explain the negative impacts it would have on investors, market participants, and the financial markets. This week’s letter from The Roundtable focused exclusively on the proposal’s impact on real estate assets. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)

The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) Custody Rule Working Group developed this week’s comments and met today with the SEC’s Division of Investment Management about the proposal. RECPAC is scheduled to meet Nov. 8 in New York City.

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California Passes Corporate Climate Disclosure Package; Biden Administration Releases Net-Zero Emissions Principles for Financial Institutions

Recent government actions amplify the increasing focus by policymakers on climate laws and guidelines—and their heightened impact on CRE. The California legislature recently passed first-of-its-kind state laws that require companies to disclose their emissions, beating to the punch anticipated federal climate reporting rules from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). (Politico, Sept. 17)

Meanwhile, the Biden administration issued voluntary principles this week for asset managers, banks, insurers, and venture capital companies with goals for “net zero” emissions investments, including real estate. (Treasury news release, Sept. 19)

California’s Climate Risk Disclosure Package

  • California’s legislature passed two bills (SB 253 and SB 261) last week requiring climate-related disclosures from certain companies doing business in the state. Most notably, the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act (SB 253) would require entities with total annual global revenues greater than $1 billion to quantify and publicly report Scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
  • SB 253 is estimated to regulate around 5,400 companies. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) pledged to sign both bills, although he may request changes when the legislature reconvenes in January. The laws could be challenged in court before they take effect over the next several years. (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 20 and New York Times, Sept 17)
  • The California legislature “leapfrog[ged]” the U.S. SEC (Bloomberg, Sept. 12), which has yet to release highly anticipated federal rules that are expected to require registered companies to report to investors on material climate-related financial risks in 10-Ks and other filings. (See RER’s 2022 comments on SEC proposal | Roundtable Weekly, March 10 and June 10, 2022)

U.S. Treasury’s Net-Zero Emissions Investment PrinciplesU.S. Treasury’s Net-Zero Emissions Investment Principles -- publication imageThe Treasury Department’s Principles for Net-Zero Financing & Investment is focused on “financial institutions’ scope 3 financed and facilitated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” It urges private sector financial institutions to align their GHG reduction efforts and net-zero goals with their “portfolio companies,” “portfolio of assets,” and “client base.”

  • The document notes that clients and portfolio companies should provide to their financial institutions their own net-zero plans, including “metrics and targets” for Scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Buildings and real estate assets have long been considered part of a financial institution’s Scope 3 emissions “value chain.” 
  • The set of nine principles encourage greater adoption of emerging best practices for private sector financial institutions that have made net-zero commitments, while promoting consistent and credible implementation approaches.

A Sept. 12 podcast featuring Roundtable Senior Vice President & Counsel Duane Desiderio, and Nareit’s Senior Vice President of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Jessica Long, discusses the imminent SEC rule and other real estate policy priorities in the energy and climate arena. (Listen to Nareit’s “Real Estate Roundtable says CRE Playing Key Role in Success of Federal Climate Programs”)

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