October 15, 2019

Board Diversity: NYC Comptroller Launches “Rooney Rule” Initiative

Last week, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer announced an initiative calling for companies to adopt a corporate version of the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” in order to promote gender & ethnic diversity in the boardroom. Here’s an excerpt from the Comptroller’s press release:

At the annual Bureau of Asset Management (BAM) “Emerging and MWBE Manager” conference, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today launched the third stage of the groundbreaking Boardroom Accountability Project with a new first-in-the-nation initiative calling on companies to adopt a policy requiring the consideration of both women and people of color for every open board seat and for CEO appointments, a version of the “Rooney Rule” pioneered by the National Football League (NFL). The new initiative is the cornerstone of the Comptroller’s Boardroom Accountability Project, a campaign launched in 2014 which seeks to make boards more diverse, independent, and climate competent.

The Comptroller launched this initiative by sending a letter to 56 S&P 500 companies that do not currently have a Rooney Rule policy requesting them to implement one. The press release indicates that the Comptroller will file shareholder proposals at companies “with lack of apparent racial diversity at the highest levels.”

Since the Comptroller is pressing for a corporate Rooney Rule, I wondered if there was data on how the NFL’s Rooney Rule has played out in terms of promoting diversity. I came across this recent article from “” which says that the results are a mixed bag. Minority candidates are getting more shots at head coaching positions, but the results suggest that they’re put in a position to succeed less frequently than white coaches, and that teams give them the axe more quickly. It’s also worth noting that, despite the Rooney Rule, 7 of the 8 head coaching vacancies in the NFL during the past offseason were filled by white dudes.

I have a problem with the methodology that the article applies to its Rooney Rule analysis. The Cleveland Browns’ hiring & firing of Romeo Crennel & Hue Jackson during the period were included in the sample, which I really think should’ve been limited to professional football teams. Besides, as we Cleveland fans are in the process of finding out once again this season, nobody can question the fact that the Browns are an equal opportunity pit of despair.

Conflict Minerals: GAO Says 2018 Reports Were More of the Same

The GAO recently completed its annual conflict minerals review as required by Dodd Frank. Here’s an excerpt from this GAO report highlighting its results:

Companies’ conflict minerals disclosures filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2018 were, in general, similar in number and content to disclosures filed in the prior 2 years. In 2018, 1,117 companies filed conflict minerals disclosures—about the same number as in 2017 and 2016. The percentage of companies that reported on their efforts to determine the source of minerals in their products through supply chain data collection (country-of-origin inquiries) was also similar to percentages in those 2 prior years.

As a result of the inquiries they conducted, an estimated 56 percent of the companies reported whether the conflict minerals in their products came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or any of the countries adjoining it—similar to the estimated 53 and 49 percent in the prior 2 years. The percentage of companies able to make such a determination significantly increased between 2014 and 2015, and has since leveled off.

Tomorrow’s Webcast: “Sustainability Reporting – Small & Mid-Cap Perspectives”

Tune in tomorrow for the webcast – “Sustainability Reporting: Small & Mid-Cap Perspectives” – to hear White & Case’s Maia Gez, Elm Sustainability Partners’ Lawrence Heim, Ballard Spahr’s Katayun Jaffari and Toro’s Angie Snavely discuss sustainability trends among small & mid-caps – and how companies with limited resources can get a sustainability initiative off the ground.

John Jenkins