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Legislators Press FINRA, SEC Unit for Data on Sexual Harassment; Investors Also Raise Concerns

In letters to FINRA and the SEC’s Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, three U.S. Senators requested data on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the financial services industry to “better understand how financial firms are working to track and combat sexual harassment.” Both letters included questions FINRA and the SEC’s OMWI must respond to in mid-March. The senators also requested a staff-level briefing on the responses. The political pressure comes as investors also press firms to address these issues.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported that pension funds are pushing public company boards to get tougher on sexual harassment,  and the Coalition of Institutional Investors recently published a report titled “How Corporate Boards can Combat Sexual Harassment.” Mutual fund boards have not yet been included in these calls from legislators or investors. Lawyers from Goodwin Procter recently discussed the securities law questions raised by the #MeToo movement, including possible regulatory obligations on firms to disclose incidents, related accounting disclosures as well as practical considerations when deciding whether or not to disclose harassment incidents to investors.  Similarly, lawyers from Cleary, Gottlieb writing on the current climate present eight key questions that companies should be asking when developing policies and procedures to confront sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct in today’s workplace, including whether the board is sufficiently informed of the company’s policies and procedures relating to sexual harassment.