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Sierra Club Takes Trump’s SEC to Court Over Failure to Respond to FOIA Request

Securities and Exchange Commission has refused to produce documents regarding rejection of climate-related shareholder resolutions.

WASHINGTON - Today, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit challenging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its failure to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and promptly disclose documents regarding the agency’s unprecedented rejections, on behalf of corporate polluters, of climate-related shareholder resolutions aimed at reducing harmful pollution, or adopting corporate sustainability and climate goals. 

In a sharp break from previous agency policy, SEC’s rejection of climate-related shareholder proposals has soared under the Trump administration. The agency has allowed companies not to hold votes on at least 12 climate-related shareholder resolutions in the last 18 months, including one that, if passed, would have compelled Exxon to disclose emissions targets in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. 

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In April, the Sierra Club filed a FOIA request seeking records that would potentially explain the increase in rejections of shareholder proposals relating to climate change under Trump. The SEC has neither provided any documents nor responded to this request within the timeline required by law. The lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenges SEC’s failure to respond to this request.

“The American people have a right to know why the federal government is suppressing actions by private shareholders to hold corporate polluters accountable for their role in the climate crisis,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Joshua Smith. “Trump’s SEC is determined to leave the public in the dark and has ignored repeated inquiries about the status of this information. Now we’re taking them to court to ensure that the public knows the truth.” 

Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP (RBGG) is representing Sierra Club in the matter.  “FOIA mandates prompt access to these records, and the SEC’s delay is plainly unreasonable,” said RBGG partner Van Swearingen. 

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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