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Government Accountability Office (GAO) Issues Report 
"Investment Management: Key Practices Could Provide More Options for Federal Entities and Opportunities for Minority- and Women-Owned Asset Managers"
 
 
On September 20, 2017 the GAO publicly released a report entitled "Investment Management: Key Practices Could Provide More Options for Federal Entities and Opportunities for Minority- and Women-Owned Asset Managers". The GAO interviewed industry organizations including NASP last fall to produce the report.  Additionally, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman Gregory Meeks and Senator Cory Booker issued a statement which is included below.
 
Click HERE to view the report.
 
 
For Immediate Release
September 20, 2017
 
Waters, Booker and Meeks Statement on GAO Report on Disparities in Asset Management
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) released a statement on a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled, "Investment Management: Key Practices Could Provide More Options for Federal Entities and Opportunities for Minority- and Women-Owned Asset Managers" (GAO-17-726), which was requested by the lawmakers. 

The GAO identified four modest practices in the report that could be used as part of Federal entities' asset manager selection processes to help increase opportunities for highly-qualified diverse-owned firms that do not require targets or allocations for minority and women- owned (MWO) asset management firms or changes in performance standards. These include: (1) demonstrating a commitment from top leadership at Federal entities to increase opportunities; (2) reviewing investment policies and practices to remove barriers that may unfairly limit the participation of smaller, newer firms; (3) conducting outreach to inform MWO asset firms about opportunities and Federal selection processes; and (4) explicitly communicating priorities and expectations about inclusive practices to investment staff and consultants and ensuring that those expectations are met. 

"This report confirms that minority- and women-owned (MWO) asset managers disproportionately manage only 1 percent of the $70 trillion managed by asset management firms in the United States," Ranking Member Waters said. "This tiny percentage reflects an alarming opportunity gap within the highly concentrated asset management industry, particularly in light of the growing body of research demonstrating that diverse-owned asset managers perform as well, if not better, than their majority-owned peers. Although state, local, and private pension plans and other institutional investors have started to use more diverse asset firms, the federal government has largely failed to address and remedy the barriers faced by MWO asset firms to promote greater participation. I applaud the federal entities that have acknowledged their shortcomings and committed to working to improve equal opportunities by incorporating these practices. However, I am deeply disappointed that the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), disagreed with the GAO's recommendations. The TSP includes over $250 billion in externally managed assets, far more than all other entities included in the GAO's report combined. Despite acknowledging that the TSP could provide opportunities for MWO asset management firms, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board does not currently utilize diverse-owned asset managers and, even more troubling, indicated that it did not intend to adopt the GAO's recommendations. This is perplexing given the GAO's finding that TSP participants could enjoy expanded investment options if the Board implemented a more inclusive asset manager selection process. I strongly urge the Board to rethink its resistance to addressing this important issue and to incorporate the GAO's recommendations to help remove barriers faced by MWO asset managers and benefit investors, as a first step towards leveling the uneven playing field in the asset management industry." 

"This is a matter of access and opportunity, and one of many factors leading to the deep socio-economic inequities that exist between women and people of color and their white and male counterparts," Senator Booker said. "Of the $70 trillion under management by asset management firms in the U.S., less than one-percent is managed by minority and women-owned firms. This is an unacceptable reality that we must change and the federal government should lead the way. As the GAO report demonstrates, federal pension plans must ensure that institutional investors make an intentional commitment to diversifying the firms they do business with and redouble efforts to reach minority and women-owned firms about opportunities. Studies have shown that women and minority-owned asset managers do just as well or better than their peers. It's on us to make sure they have a seat at the table." 

"The GAO's report reaffirms much of what we know - there are barriers to entry in the financial services industry, and those barriers are even more pronounced when it comes to financial firms contracting with the federal government," Congressman Meeks said. "Moving forward, I will push the federal retirement plans to adopt the reforms recommended by the GAO which will bring them more in line with what's taking place on the local and state levels."


Grant Makers Can Promote Diversity by Focusing on Who's Managing Endowment Assets
 
The Chronicle of Philanthropy featured an opinion piece by Mary McClymont, President & CEO of the Public Welfare Foundation, urging foundations to increase their use of diverse asset managers.  The piece highlights the work of the Diverse Asset Managers Initiative (DAMI) and several partners. Click 
HERE to view the piece.


Group of Senators Send Letter for Diverse and Emerging Manager Inclusion to Secretaries of U.S. Department of Treasury, U.S. Department of Commerce, and U.S. Department of Labor
 
On July 24, 2014, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Kirsten Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)  sent a letter urging the Board of the Pension Benefit Guara nty Corporation (PBGC) to create a strategic plan to increase allocations to minority- and women- owned/emerging firms in the management of the $83 billion dollar federal pension fund. 
 
The letter was sent to Secretary Jacob Lew, U.S. Department of Treasury, Secretary Thomas Perez, U.S. Department of Labor and Secretary Penny Pritzker, U.S. Department of Commerce who  are  Board Members of the PBGC with Secretary Perez serving as Chair. 
 
To read the letter sent to the Secretaries Lew, Perez and Pritzker, please click HERE. 

NASP sent letters of support to Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Banking Committee as well as Senators representing States with current diverse/emerging manager programs encouraging them to sign the letter drafted by Senator Booker. Earlier this month, NASP, NAIC, and NAA held a briefing with CIO's of federal pension plans to discuss the lack of usage of diverse and small asset managers in federal pension plans. The organizations will continue to work on efforts to increase  access to business opportunities for small minority- and women-owned financial services firms. 

On February 7, 2014, NASP submitted a comment letter to the SEC in response to the proposed joint standards. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the National Credit Union Administration issued a proposal for joint standards for assessing the diversity policies and practices of the institutions that they regulate.

These agencies are covered under Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which created the Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion. Among others, the standards cover the areas of procurement and business practices and supplier diversity and practices to promote transparency of organizational diversity and inclusion.
 
  • Please click HERE to review the Proposed Joint Standards.
  • To view NASP's comment letter, please click HERE.
Overall, we generally agree with the Joint Standards and applaud the OMWI officers for their efforts in this regard. NASP remains concerned however, that the Joint Standards as written are too vague to meaningfully evaluate the diversity practices of Regulated Entities.


In 2013, NASP held  a series of meetings with Republican and Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee to discuss NASP members challenges in participating equitably in business opportunities with the federal government.

In July 2013, NASP submitted letters of support to the Senate Banking Committee urging them to move toward confirming Congressman Mel Watt as the next Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In December 2013, Congressman Mel Watt was confirmed as Director of the FHFA. Click HERE to view a copy of the letter. 

In 2013, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York selected two NASP member firms to participate in the Treasury Operations Counterparty Pilot Program - a program for small firms to explore ways to broaden access to open market operations for firms beyond the Primary Dealer (large firm) community. 

NASP was involved in the formulation of language with Congresswoman Maxine Waters  for Section 342 of The Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 establishing the Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion at federal agencies covered by the Act; specifying the fair inclusion and utilization of minorities, women, and minority-owned and women-owned financial services firms in all business and activities of the agency at all levels,  including in procurement, insurance, and all types of contracts; and increasing workforce diversity. 

In 2010, NASP testified before the House Financial Services Committee Subcommittees on Oversight and Investigations and Housing and Community Opportunity “Minorities and Women in Financial Regulatory Reform: The Need for Increasing Participation and Opportunities for Qualified Persons and Business”. NASP also testified in 2006 and 2008. NASP testified  before House Financial Services Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations “Diversity in the Financial Services Industry and Access to Capital for Minority-Owned Businesses: Challenges and Opportunities” and before the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and District of Columbia on "Investing in the Future: Minority Opportunities and the Federal Retirement Thrift Savings Plan" and before the House Financial Services Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation “Diversity in the Financial Services Sector”. 

 
  • Click HERE to view “Diversity in the Financial Services Industry and Access to Capital for Minority-Owned Businesses: Challenges and Opportunities”  (2006)
  • Click HERE to view “Diversity in the Financial Services Sector”  (2008)
  • Click HERE to view "Investing in the Future: Minority Opportunities and the Federal Retirement Thrift Savings Plan"  Thurman White, Progress Investment Management (2008)
  • Click HERE to view "Investing in the Future: Minority Opportunities and the Federal Retirement Thrift Savings Plan"  Ed Swann, Jr., CFA FIS Group (2008)
  • Click HERE to view "Investing in the Future: Minority Opportunities and the Federal Retirement Thrift Savings Plan"  Mellody Hobson, Ariel Investments (2008)
  • Click HERE to view “Minorities and Women in Financial Regulatory Reform: The Need for Increasing Participation and Opportunities for Qualified Persons and Business” (2010)
As a result of NASP's advocacy efforts, in 2009, multiple NASP minority-owned and women-owned member firms participate in the US Department of the Treasury's Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP) as part of President Obama's Financial Stability plan and the Treasury's efforts to increase the utilization of small/minority-owned and women-owned professional services. NASP members were also selected to manage programs designed to provide liquidity across various asset backed markets including TALF. 

In 2009, NASP played a key role at the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Economic Security Taskforce TARP/TALF Access Summit. The Summit included speakers from senior members of the CBC; The Honorable Ben Bernanke, Former Chair, Federal Reserve Board; Kevin Chavers, Former President of Ginnie Mae; Gary Grippo, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fiscal Operations & Policy, The U.S. Treasury; and other decision-makers from the FHFA, FDIC, and The Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. In addition, prime contractors, many of whom are NASP members and sponsors,  presented at the Summit. 


NASP is honored to have worked with the late D. Michael "Mickey" Collins, Former OMWI Director at the FDIC over the years on a number of strategic plans related to professional services and workforce diversity at the FDIC. His passion and diligence served as an important model for other federal agencies and their diversity initiatives. As a long-time champion for  NASP, Mr. Collins was given an award at the 2013 8th Annual Legislative Symposium shortly before his passing.