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SEC’s Leading ESG Advocate Lee Headed to New York University (1)

June 16, 2022, 8:04 PMUpdated: June 16, 2022, 9:16 PM

SEC Commissioner Allison Lee, who helped make ESG a top agency priority, will teach at the New York University School of Law after her expected departure this summer.

Lee will be appointed an adjunct professor and senior fellow at the law school’s Institute for Corporate Governance and Finance, teaching a seminar on law and business in the fall, a school official confirmed Thursday.

She announced earlier this year she would leave the Securities and Exchange Commission, following the Senate confirmation of a successor. Jaime Lizarraga, the nominee for Lee’s seat, won Senate approval Thursday.

Lee, a Democrat, became a commissioner in 2019 and later to rose to acting SEC chair, when President Joe Biden took office in 2021.

As the SEC’s interim leader, Lee helped propel environmental, social and governance issues to the forefront of the agency’s agenda. She hired a senior policy adviser for ESG, launched an enforcement task force to root out greenwashing and directed the commission to gather public input on climate change disclosures.

She continued to push the agency to act on ESG issues as a commissioner after Gary Gensler became chair. In March, Lee helped the SEC propose rules that would require companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions and make other climate disclosures.

“I will continue to be deeply invested in the climate risk disclosure process and ensuring that markets are accurately accounting for that risk,” Lee said. “One way or another, that’s going to be in my DNA.”

At NYU, she will reunite with former Commissioner Robert Jackson, a Democratic-leaning independent who left the agency in 2020 to return to the law school, where he’s a tenured professor and co-director of the Institute for Corporate Governance and Finance.

“She has taught me a great deal about securities law and life,” Jackson told Bloomberg Law Thursday.

The NYU job also will mark a return to academia for Lee. She previously taught courses in Spain and Italy on financial regulation and corporate law, after more than a decade of SEC service that included time as an Enforcement Division lawyer.

“One thing that I always find particularly gratifying in this space is helping students understand how important what we do is to a well-functioning economy and how important a well-functioning economy is to a well-functioning democracy,” Lee said. “I think that’s something that gets lost in the educational process.”

Lee said she hasn’t had any other discussions about future job possibilities beyond NYU. But she said a return to the SEC as chair is unlikely.

“I could never just completely rule it out, but the chances are very low,” Lee said.

(Updates 3rd paragraph to reflect Senate confirmation of Lee's replacement)

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Ramonas in Washington at aramonas@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Ferullo at mferullo@bloomberglaw.com