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Latest Compliance Hires Reflect Surging ESG Pressures

By Al Barbarino for

A string of recent compliance-related hires shows the continued influence that environmental, social and governance issues are having on companies as clients, shareholders and regulators demand more information about their ESG efforts.

Crypto-focused asset manager Hashdex flagged its focus on ESG matters in an announcement last week about its hiring of a new global head of legal and compliance.

Working out of Hashdex’s New York City and Rio de Janeiro offices, Nicole Dyskant will head up the firm’s global legal, compliance and corporate governance efforts.

“My personal responsibilities include promoting ESG awareness and practices from inside the company, increasing both internal governance and with third-party service providers and stakeholders, as well as increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion as much as possible,” Dyskant said in an email to Law360.

The firm sees ESG as a “continuous day-to-day responsibility shared among some key people in the senior leadership,” she added.

Among Hashdex’s recent ESG-related endeavors, it recently created an ESG committee that Dyskant is co-leading with the firm’s chief of growth, Roberta Antunes, and the firm runs a “green Bitcoin fund that commits to neutralize carbon,” Dyskant said.

Dyskant previously founded boutique law firm Dyskant Advogados, which represented asset managers and investment adviser clients, according to the announcement. She also co-founded Compliasset, a regulatory compliance software suite for the Brazilian fund industry and was a partner at ACA Compliance Group.

“I look forward to working closely with the team at Hashdex as we enhance transparency, safety and accessibility to the crypto industry,” she added in the announcement. “I am confident that we will work alongside global regulators, investors, and our peers, to help move the crypto investment industry forward.”

The emphasis on ESG-related issues at both public and private companies comes as stakeholders continue to demand more information about the way companies are accounting for their impacts on the environment, supporting diversity, and other corporate governance matters.

Global engineering and defense company Huntington Ingalls Industries, or HII, announced Friday that the responsibilities of its compliance and privacy chief Paul C. Harris have expanded to include so-called sustainability issues.

The firm’s CEO, Chris Kastner, said in a statement that the company views sustainability as “important to long-term growth, built around our values and commitments to our employees, customers and shareholders.”

“Paul’s leadership will ensure we are making meaningful, measurable progress on [ESG] initiatives and communicating clearly about them going forward,” Kastner said.

Harris formerly worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as associate attorney general and deputy assistant attorney general of the civil division’s torts branch, and he also served four years in Virginia’s House of Delegates. He has held compliance-related positions at global companies including RaytheonNorthrop Grumman and Sodexo. He declined to comment.

In addition to tacking on ESG-related responsibilities to more general compliance, risk and legal roles, some larger companies have gone the extra step, appointing or hiring individuals with legal backgrounds into chief ESG officer titles.

For example, Royal Caribbean hired a new chief ESG officer last year, Silvia Garrigo, who oversees the company’s ESG framework and long-term strategy, according to an announcement at the time.

Her prior roles included chief sustainability officer at Cuba Strategies Inc., senior of counsel at Morrison & Foerster LLP, and senior legal positions at Chevron Corp. which included a focus on ESG, according to her LinkedIn profile.

At the time of her hiring, Garrigo noted in a statement that, “We are facing increasing expectations for ESG performance and reporting.”

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is among the regulators looking to beef up reporting around companies’ ESG disclosures, and is closing in on a long-awaited rule proposal that would create a new climate-related disclosure framework for SEC-registered companies.

The U.S. Department of Labor is also looking to finalize a rule that would allow Employee Retirement Income Security Act retirement plans to consider ESG factors, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency began pushing banks to address climate-related risks last year.

The efforts go beyond environmental issues. For instance, the SEC approved a Nasdaq rule last year that seeks to diversify boards, and a number of state laws have emerged requiring publicly traded companies to include women on their boards.

Among other recent compliance-related appointments, Marsh McLennan announced Friday that it has appointed Katherine J. Brennan as general counsel, a role that oversees the professional services firm’s legal, compliance and public affairs functions, as well as the company’s ESG efforts.

Brennan, who was previously general counsel of Marsh LLC and chief compliance officer of Marsh McLennan before that, has advocated for companies to focus on ESG-related issues, previously telling Law360 that company stakeholders are demanding that companies be “good stewards of the environment” and create inclusive workplaces. She was not available for additional comment.