Members of the Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project convened at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel Wednesday to discuss a report they recently published, documenting struggles minority businesses face in dealing with major corporations today.
Moderator Julianne Malveaux (pictured right of Don Graves at the podium) spoke about African-American spending power not translating into gains in corporate boardrooms. “They didn’t think about giving us a slice, because perhaps we had not demanded it,” the Last Word Productions president said. “The Wall Street Project is a demand; it’s a demand that Corporate America treat African-American people, and other un[der]represented people, fairly.”
Watch Jesse Jackson speak at the plenary here:
To that end, N.Y. Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli (pictured far right) detailed steps the state is taking to address that concern. “We have put a high priority on developing emerging manager program[s] so that we can have access to the new talent, to the starting out talent, the hungry talent that’s out there,” DiNapoli shared. “And those of you who work in the investment field know that when we talk about emerging managers, most often we are talking about firms of color and/or women-owned firms.”
DiNapoli revealed that 40 percent of broker dealers in New York’s fund investment pool are minority or women firms in 2014, up from 25 percent in 2007.
Don Graves (pictured center), Executive Director Of The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness at The White House, laid out the White House’s plans for helping businesses.
“We’ve taken a number of steps to get at access to capital,” he said. “Because when you have access to capital, when you are a small business owner, you’re a minority or women-business owner, it means you have access to opportunity. It means that you have the ability to engage in contracts, the ability to perform one of those contracts. And when you perform one of those contracts, you build a track record. And when you build a track record, you get another contract, and hire more people.”
A discussion of the Wall Street report ensued shortly after, which discovered that last year Apple Inc. and Verizon Communications made the two largest corporate bond issuance deals in history (Apple sold $17 billion of debt in April 2013; Verizon sold $49 billion of debt in September). But one of the report’s authors found a problem with those deals.
“There were no minority-owned firms that participated in either the Apple or Verizon transactions,” said Sabrina Philson (pictured left of Graves), president of Epsilon Advisors LLC. Philson reviewed the report’s arguments for corporations working with minority businesses, including consumer spending, changing demographics, bottom-line benefits and added value from MWBE’S (Minority-Owned Broker Dealers).
“As consumers become more socially conscious, they will demand more accountability and transparency from the companies that they patronize,” Philson added. “Inclusive practices, overall, have the possibility to impact positively on corporate profitability.”
Before the plenary ended, Rev. Jesse Jackson (pictured right of Malveaux) criticized the corporations which receive considerable Black patronage, but have yet to work with minority-owned businesses. “These are people that we support the most,” Jackson said. “This one-way train has to end.”