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U.S. labor dept seen saying it will not enforce Trump-era investment rules - sources

Jessica DiNapoli
·2 min read
The United States Department of Labor is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S.

By Jessica DiNapoli

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Labor is expected to announce that it will not enforce Trump administration rules that curb investments based on environmental and social factors, and which limit shareholder voting in corporate meetings, according to two people familiar with the matter.

A department spokesman declined to comment on Thursday.

The rules, finalized in the last days of former President Donald Trump's administration, affect trillions of dollars in retirement accounts. The business-friendly rules sparked criticism from investors who want companies to act on issues such as climate change and gender equality.

The rules are among the first of hundreds of Trump-era measures that are being frozen or rescinded by President Joe Biden, who has put tackling climate change and social injustice at the forefront of his policy agenda.

The Labor Department rules require that fund managers put retirees' financial interests first when allocating investments, rather than other concerns such as racial justice, and only vote on shareholder proposals when there is an economic reason to do so.

The department is expected to announce a review of both measures, and not enforce them for the time being, the people said.

In a Jan. 20 executive order, Biden said the government should review regulations that fail to the protect the environment. Overhauling the Trump-era rules would involve a process that can take months, the people said.

"That's a very sound decision on the part of the DOL," said Sanford Lewis, director of the Shareholder Rights Group, which advocates for investors. "I think it's appropriate for them to reconsider it and in the meantime not enforce it."

Shareholder calls for companies to develop plans for climate change and disclose racial and pay data have won more investor backing, prompting some companies to push back.

Sustainable investing advocates had been hoping that the Biden administration would quickly end rules that stifle their ability to pick stocks using environmental, social or governance factors.

They have urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to revisit a similar Trump-era rule that raises the bar for submitting shareholder proposals.

(Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli; editing by Michelle Price and Richard Chang)