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U.S. SEC chair planning new workforce data disclosures for public companies

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logo adorns an office door at the SEC headquarters in Washington, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst//File Photo

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) plans to propose a rule requiring that public companies disclose a range of workforce data as the agency steps up environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures, its new chair, Gary Gensler, said on Thursday.

Gary Gensler told an audience of agency and academic researchers that "investors increasingly want to understand information about...one of the most critical components of companies, their workforce."

He said staff would propose a new rule on disclosing the workforce or "human capital" metrics. Those disclosures could include data on issues such as workforce diversity, part-time versus full-time workers, and employee turnover, according to advocacy groups that have been pushing for the new rules.

"This is one of my top priorities and will be an early focus during my tenure at the SEC," Gensler told the gathering.

The SEC is ramping up its ESG agenda to execute on Democrats' priorities to address issues such as climate change and social injustice. Gensler has previously said the agency was also planning a new climate change disclosure rule.

Earlier this year, former acting SEC chair Allison Lee launched a review of public companies' climate risk disclosures to help SEC staff modernize the agency's decade-old climate guidance.

Advocacy groups had been pushing the SEC to provide more useful ESG disclosures after former Republican President Donald Trump's regulators eroded investors' access to material disclosures and their ability to push for ESG measures.

Gregg Gelzinis, a senior analyst at Washington-based Center for American Progress, said that while climate risk should be a priority, the SEC shouldn't forget about social issues and governance.

"Investors need reliable, consistent, and comparable information on a range of other issues, including political spending, human rights, human capital management, diversity and inclusion, international taxes, gender and executive pay ratios, and more."

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