Saturday, July 10, 2021

Biden Fixing Uneven, Unfair Economic Policies

Biden Executive Order

On Friday, July 9, 2021, "President Biden signed a sweeping executive order..intended to increase competition within the nation’s economy and to limit corporate dominance, factors the White House says have led to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers while dampening pay and restricting the freedom to change jobs."

Mr. Biden noted that “What we’ve seen over the past few decades is less competition and more concentration that holds our economy back..rather than competing for consumers, they are consuming their competitors. Rather than competing for workers, they’re finding ways to gain the upper hand on labor.”

This order synchs to several issues we identified in Amicus Briefs filed in Federal appeals and lower courts:

September, 2018 - Amicus Brief in Net Neutrality Case (18-cv-1051) https://www.prlog.org/12729944-william-michael-cunningham-files-amicus-brief-in-net-neutrality-case-18-cv-1051.html

As we noted in that brief, eliminating net neutrality lowers income for African Americans, given increasing cost of service and this group's initial lower (than non-African Americans) levels of disposable income. Biden's executive order makes the same argument.

August, 2012 - Amicus Brief in SEC vs. Citigroup (2nd Cir Ct of Ap) https://www.prlog.org/11782028-william-michael-cunningham-files-friend-of-the-court-brief-in-sec-vs-citigroup-2nd-cir-ct-of-ap.html 

In this brief, our economic analysis concluded that "markets have become less stable. Faulty regulatory practices and collusion (too big to fail, etc.) have moved regulators and lawmakers..in the direction of supporting suppliers to the financial service marketplace. A decision by the (Appeals) Court in favor of the SEC and Citigroup will further weaken this support, to the detriment of market institutions and the public." Again, Biden's executive order makes many of the same arguments.

As we noted on January 20th, we applaud this Administration’s fast start and look forward to supporting their efforts.." This order goes a long way toward fixing uneven, unfair and wealth concentrating economic policies. 

Friday, July 2, 2021

US SIF FORUM 2021 - Reflection by Alice Gabidoulline, Impact Investing Intern

At the beginning of 2020, $16.6 trillion in US-domiciled ESG assets were held by 530 institutional investors, 384 money managers and 1,204 community investment institutions. Since 1995, the US SIF Foundation finds that sustainable investments have increased at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent.


This data proves that the financial landscape is rapidly moving toward impact investing. As a student of finance curious about the markets and how I can make a difference, I turned to the US SIF FORUM 2021 to learn more. 

Over the week of June 14th - 18th, 2021, I attended the US SIF FORUM 2021 as a Peter DeSimone Scholar. The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment conference brings together leaders of the sustainable and impact investing community to learn about approaches, trends and policy developments in the field. 

This year’s conference featured 60+ speakers in 25+ sessions with topics ranging from racial justice to ESG disclosure. Additionally, the event included many opportunities to engage with the US SIF community. 

The sessions I attended encompassed a wide net of issues that the impact investing space seeks to address. One of these included a panel on investing for racial justice. With panelists Yusuf George from Just Capital, Kate Finn from First Peoples Worldwide, Nicole Middleton Holloway from Natural Investments and Iyassu Essayas of Parnassus, the conversation broadened my understanding of the many groups that investments for racial justice can and should target. 

Mr. George’s insights about inspiring corporate change by seeking racial diversity within talent pools brings to light an important focus area for investment in the intersection of education and career services. Ms. Finn’s comments regarding the 200% growth of native women-owned businesses, an incredible, untapped power in the US economy, calls for action on the issues with native economic invisibility—a modern form of racism. This conversation included many other significant insights which certainly provide a necessary context for investing for racial justice. 

Another session I attended called “Current and Potential Impacts on the US of the International Regulatory Landscape” included a conversation between US SIF President Lisa Woll and SEC Commissioner Allison Lee. Commissioner Lee has been called by some the “most consequential acting chair of the SEC,” already having created two new positions (the Task Force on Climate and ESG Issues, and the Climate ESG Risks and Opportunities Web Page). Most recently, she is taking public comment on the rule proposal for climate disclosure. 

Ms. Woll and Ms. Lee discussed the need for regulatory action to ensure that ESG remains top of mind within the financial world. Hearing two women in powerful positions within the field inspired me greatly towards continuing to learn about impact investing and the future of finance as a means of making the world a better place.

In addition to attending these and other panels (including on the Just Transition, Disability Inclusion, Biodiversity, and many more), the US SIF FORUM also introduced me to the impact investing network. I enjoyed conversations with professionals working in the field and with my fellow students about educational tools and opportunities, sustainability reports and more. 

Please find the Link to US SIF Annual Conference Web Page here https://www.ussif.org/conference and the link to US SIF Peter DeSimone Student Scholarship Web Page here https://www.ussif.org/content.asp?contentid=206 

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Blue Economy. Alice Gabidoulline, Grace Pottebaum, Andrew Taber, Impact Interns and Analysts, Creative Investment Research.


On June 23rd, the NSU Broward Center for Innovation held a webinar titled “Blue Economy: Trends, Challenges, Opportunities, Strategies” to discuss the advancement of sustainability and innovation in developing the human economy around ocean resources. 

Moderated by John Wensveen, the Executive Director of the NSU Broward Center for Innovation, the panel included Shelby Thomas, CEO of Ocean Rescue Alliance, Daniel Kleinman, CEO of Seaworthy Collective, Sean O’Hanlon, Principal at Tierra Verde, and Alec Bogdanoff, Principal at Brizaga. 

The Blue Economy, according to the World Bank is defined as as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.” Through the webinar, the panelists discussed the current state of the Blue Economy, its various sectors and applications, and what to expect moving forward.

The panelists could not overstate the economic magnanimity of this growing industry, citing an overall market cap estimate of over $1.5 trillion dollars. While the majority of this figure involves gas, shipping, and similar functions, there are huge implications for biofuel technologies, pharmaceuticals, and ultimately endless industries; O’Hanlon found that this smaller sector within the market, estimated around $100 billion, has only barely been tapped into. 

In all of the different areas around the Blue Economy, an emphasis on sustainability, healing, and addressing climate change must be maintained; the panelists agreed that when it comes to addressing global climate change, the conversation is already past “Should we do this?” and is currently “How are we going to do this?” Rising sea levels pose just one immediate existential threat to humanity.

To keep up with the increasing presence of our changing climate, the webinars' experts believe that it will take significant market progression in scale, scope, and speed. In order to make the advancements needed, the technological side of the Blue Economy requires innovation in addition to teaching the technical skills to accompany this growth. 

While the panelists largely concluded that sustainably developing the Blue Economy is a brand new area of infinite scope, broadly requiring evolutionary change in thought and technology, they provided concrete ways that the government as well as average individuals can help restore the marine environment and spark innovation. Primarily, by providing economic incentives, the government can coax corporations into exploring this market area.

Considering the size of the potential market cap, this may happen naturally; however, a quick preventative response is required. And for the average person, there are endless volunteering, advocacy, and work opportunities within this sector; awareness is crucial. People love the oceans, making coastal cities around the world top tourist destinations. However, few understand the doom that may emerge without innovation and action. For instance in Florida, the panelists argued that the narrative of the blue economy must change; their blue economy is focused on tourism as opposed to protecting the environment. Tourism and sustainability can, and must, work in conjunction.

In conclusion, the panelists stated that current practices are primarily short term band aid solutions that are not going to be enough; the industry must act preventatively and proactively, not reactively. Hence, scholars and economists are trying to create ways for people to get involved and have a direct impact. This includes networking, sharing ideas, and creating spaces for collaboration, growth, and subsequently innovation. Unfortunately the human relationship with nature has traditionally focused on extraction opposed to preservation and protection. However, this hopefully will change with the advent and expansion of a sustainable and creative Blue Economy. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Child Tax Credit Program: Up to $20,000 in Cash to Parents by Grace Pottebaum, Impact Investing Intern, Garrett Evangelical-Theological Seminary


On June 17th, 2021, the Biden Administration announced the Child Tax Credit (part of the American Rescue Plan) in order to combat child poverty. To be eligible for this program, individuals must file taxes and have income no greater than $50,000. This program gives $3,000 to parents with children between the ages 6-17 and $3,600 to those who have children under the age of 6. The Biden Administration believes that it is a moral imperative to make sure this tax credit reaches parents struggling to take care of their children. In a critical modification not seen before, this programs gives parents who have not filed taxes the ability to receive tax credit through a simple non-tax-filer tool specifically for this child tax credit. 

This program has several distinctive features: 

  • First-time payments will be distributed in monthly $500 increments. 
  • Furthermore, parents who have not filed taxes are encouraged to file immediately, since this tax credit program allows them to receive stimulus payments as well. This means that eligible individuals who file taxes for the first time this year can receive up to $20,000 in aid. 

Through this innovative and much needed program the Biden administration hopes to cut child poverty in half. 

To spread awareness of the American Rescue Plan, June 21st will be declared Child Tax Credit day.

The Biden administration strongly encourages the public to spread awareness on this transformative program and help others sign up. For more information on child tax credit please visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/child-tax-credit/ and https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/advance-child-tax-credit-payments-in-2021

Friday, June 18, 2021

A Focus on the Future - Bloomberg’s Latest ESG Webinar - Alice Gabidoulline, Impact Investing Intern, University of Michigan

A recent webinar titled ESG Integration Across Asset Classes displayed Bloomberg’s focus on recognizing the need for data centered, environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics within every investor’s portfolio. Bloomberg is a privately held financial, software, data, and media company headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.

As a part of Bloomberg’s Portfolio & Index Research Conference, the webinar provided technical details on the firm's efforts to measure ESG. (Creative Investment Research has been measuring ESG impacts since 1989.) A three-pronged approach—analyzing the carbon transition, power sector transition, and climate policies—underlies Bloomberg’s climate scores. 

With a focus on climate impact and commodities, Bloomberg presented two approaches to measuring carbon emissions—the number one priority of the Paris Climate Agreement benchmarks. 

First, Bloomberg experts used company level data and Bloomberg Industry Classification Standard (BICS). Second, they used a life cycle analysis, which sources data from academic studies, industry reports, production models, and government agencies. Within the life cycle analysis, the “cradle-to-grave” concept shows the part of the life cycle that corresponds to the underlying futures contract of the asset. 

Modern futures trading dates to 1730 in Japan. During the 16th century, Western commodity futures also began trading in England. (Investopedia). Society created futures contracts as a means for farmers (sellers) and dealers (buyers) to finance the equipment, wages, and other factors needed to raise crops, thus ensuring food security in the future.

By integrating carbon pricing factors into futures, Bloomberg attempts to ensure climate security. This new, yet historically warranted approach to financial markets and ESG integration emphasizes the importance of re-analyzing the financial tools available to investors today to solve our modern issues in society.

Bloomberg’s ESG reports outline in greater detail the statistical scores-based tilts and mathematical methodologies of this research. This event used a global context by assessing different countries’ scores; Denmark, Sweden, and Ireland received the top three climate scores. 

A comprehensive framework to measure ESG and incorporate it into many asset classes is a strong indicator of leadership in the impact investing space by Bloomberg. The knowledge that this project has highlighted, however, should continue to be explored beyond assigning scores. The same critical thinking that ties the long history of risk-aversion in financing agricultural futures contracts with the need to create risk-aversion frameworks in futures for carbon emissions will lead to greater, structural positive change for all of society.

Thus, ESG integration has applications both in frameworks and indices, and in the larger context of how society should look at financing for a better future, today. 

The speakers at this event were Kartik Ghia, Steve Hou, Casey C. Clark, Aj Lindeman, Robert Huber, Brian Colantropo, Patricia Torres, and Antonio Lazanas. 

This event took place on June 17, 2021 at 9am. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

MDIs, CDFIs, and the Mosaic Theory; Is Positive Change on the Horizon? by Andrew Taber, Impact Investing Analyst

 

On June 15th, several American financial and political leaders convened in distinct discussions concerning the future of Minority Deposit Institutions (MDIs) and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). At a White House press conference, a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Board meeting and MDI policy statement release, in a House Financial Services Committee statement, and a Georgetown University forum with an all-star cast, minority lending was the conversation of the day. Utilizing the Mosaic Theory, Creative Investment Research contends that the convergence of these events may not be a coincidence, and may signal a significant policy change.

We note that the MDI events of June 15th were preceded by a June 14th meeting of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) Investment Committee. Of particular relevance was a progress report on the Fund’s Sustainable Investment 5 Year Strategy Plan. Fund management discussed diversity and inclusion that synched with the MDI discussions of June 15th. We further note that important financial organizations like CalPERS are prioritizing corporate board diversity in the investments they make. The Fund’s strategic corporate governance principles allow them to directly impact and improve board diversity. Overall diversity trends are positive, as both gender and racial board diversity appear to be increasing across S&P 500 companies. While the examples provided by the Fund focused on gender diversity, it is clear that large pension funds, like CalPERS, value and are pushing for increased corporate board diversity. This discussion simply highlights simultaneous policy moves outlined on the following day, and provides a context for why we think these change are both significant and positive. 

On June 15th, the White House brought Vice President Kamala Harris, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and the Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters, together with Senator Mark Warner, and Opportunity Finance Network CEO Lisa Mensah to announce the release of $1.25B in funding to CDFIs and MDIs. Their discussion focused on the importance of financial equity and the disproportionate effect that the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing recession has had on communities of color. The fact that these impactful and important American policy makers all gathered on one day signaled a push towards improved inclusion through direct financial investment. Representative Waters, in particular, made it clear that, while $1.25B in community development funding was historic, it is only the beginning. This was seconded by Senator Warner, who, after discussing inequities in venture capital and the decline in the number of Black banks after the 2008 recession, explained that not only will there be $1.75B more in direct community investments to come, he calculated that a $9B investment in these institutions should lead to $90B in community lending through gearing. This is certainly a significant moment, heightened by other events of the day.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation released a “Statement of Policy Regarding Minority Depository Institutions.” In this policy statement, the FDIC outlined its prior efforts to support MDIs and reviewed the unique challenges these institutions face. The FDIC MDI Policy statement updates the public on steps the FDIC is taking to enhance its MDI program. Responding to commenter queries, the agency clarified several of its goals. In particular, the statement notes that the FDIC will assist and support new and existing MDIs through education programs and technical assistance. Of particular interest, the FDIC will try to preserve equity even in failing institutions by helping qualified MDI institutions merge, as opposed to being purchased by non-MDI financial institutions. 

As an independent agency, the FDIC’s statement demonstrates a renewed commitment on the part of the American government to increase financial equity, assist minority-led institutions, and support communities of color that have been ravaged by the COVID pandemic and by centuries of inequity.

These two events tied directly to the Georgetown University and Black Economic Alliance forum titled “Can Black and Brown Banks Compete in a Digital Economy?” The event included many important voices, including Representative Maxine Waters, Senator Mark Warner, and FDIC Chair Jelena Williams. These policymakers spoke at the Georgetown forum after the White House MDI event. While Rep. Waters and Sen. Warner reemphasized several of the points they made earlier in the day, they also emphasized the importance of technology for Black banks. Additionally, they noted that the shocking decline in Black banks and MDIs since 2008 is particularly problematic given the pandemic; communities hit hardest by Covid-19 are losing the institutions that serve them best. Chairman McWilliams drove this point home, explaining the crucial role non-minority banks need to play by forming partnerships with MDIs. Currently, many Black banks are not capturing economies of scale required to continue to operate. She punctuated her remarks by describing the current FDIC as “not-your-grandmother’s-FDIC”, signifying that a policy shift has occurred and implying that the FDIC will do more to improve financial access in minority communities that have been historically abandoned and excluded. 

The Georgetown event had important takeaways as well. A clear theme concerned the role of technology. While many claim that technology is inherently unbiased and thus increased financial technological development and automation should reduce inequalities, several of the speakers at the Georgetown event warned that racism is so ingrained in the American system that discriminatory practices, whether intentional or not, may be coded into new technological financial tools. Thus, technology solutions should be targeted and carefully crafted, and should have reliable and accountable governance practices imbedded. Other steps must be taken as well. For instance, Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu suggested revitalizing MDIs, and second, getting all American credit scores higher. This push towards supporting MDIs was seen across all of the events. 

Creative Investment Research contends that the Mosaic Theory may apply here. The Mosaic Theory is described as the idea that multiple independent sources of information can collectively be used to support a larger claim and infer an overall conclusion. The mosaic theory is commonly used in investment research to assist with valuation. In this case, the combination of discussion and statements by the U.S. Vice President, the Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Chairman of the FDIC, and a plethora of other important financial and policy experts, actors, and organizations on the importance of Minority Deposit Institutions, on the same day, may be more than a coincidence. That is, while it is entirely possible that the $1.25B in MDI and CDFI funding announced on the 15th may stand alone, when considered in conjunction with the White House event and the FDIC policy statement., it appears that MDI and CDFI investment is solidly on the policy agenda; these actors seem to be moving collectively, or even preemptively, and other important and significant policy changes are forthcoming. The $1.25B may be just the beginning. 

Creative Investment Research optimistically looks forward to seeing what may come in the following days and weeks, as improving equity and supporting Black and Brown banks are pivotal to our mission; if Black banks and MDIs continue to close with little support, American inequality will only increase. However, if the American political regime continues to prioritize these markets and institutions, with consideration and accountability, positive change may be on the horizon. 

Andrew Taber, Impact Investing Analyst

Editor: William Michael Cunningham

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Minority Bank Tuesday

There are a number of minority bank events occurring this Tuesday:

  1. FDIC Board Meeting:10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Board of Directors will meet in open session to consider a memorandum and resolution re: Final Policy Statement Regarding Minority Depository Institutions. Visit http://fdic.windrosemedia.com to view the live event.
  2. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, will join Vice President Kamala Harris, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), and Opportunity Finance Network President and CEO Lisa Mensah at the White House to discuss the importance of minority banks, community-based lenders, and the need to support small and minority-owned businesses. WHAT: White House Community Development Financial Institutions Funding Announcement Event. WHO: Vice President Kamala Harris. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA). Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). Lisa Mensah, President and CEO, Opportunity Finance Network. WHEN: Tuesday, June 15 at 1:00 p.m. ET. The White House event will be live streamed at https://www.whitehouse.gov/live
  3. Georgetown University Law Center will host a conversation on what Black and Brown banks need to compete in a digital economy. RSVP at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/can-black-and-brown-banks-compete-in-a-digital-economy-tickets-155673261917
We still feel that Black banks, in particular, are too small to make a difference. As we said on NPR, "Organizations have the resources to honor diversity and equity promises, but structural and cultural problems, as well as a lack of accountability, are hindering their ability to follow through.." See: https://wdet.org/posts/2021/05/28/91024-some-companies-have-done-better-than-others-keeping-racial-justice-pledges/ 

Monday, May 31, 2021

The 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by Grace Pottebaum, Impact Investing Intern, Garrett Evangelical-Theological Seminary

The end of May, 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. On May 31st and June 1st, 1921, the Greenwood district of Tulsa experienced what remains known as the worst incident of racial violence in U.S history. A predominantly black neighborhood, the Greenwood District, also known as Black Wall Street, was the center for many thriving black business owners and prosperity of black wealth. The massacre took place after tensions in the city rose following an incident in an elevator  involving a young black man, Dick Rowland, and a young white woman, Sarah Page. The following day Rowland was arrested, and a white mob converged on the Greenwood District. 

This historic event is personal to me as I am a white student who grew up in the public-school systems of Tulsa. I was never taught the history of my city. It was introduced to me after I moved away from Tulsa. It was a new history teacher who finally taught my class the Tulsa Race Riots while I was in high school. This was the first time all of my classmates had ever been told about what took place.

The mob that attacked the city included police officers, city officials, and white members of the Tulsan community. The attack was led on ground and in air: it was the first firebombing of a city by aircraft. According to the Red Cross, an estimated 1,265 homes were burned to the ground, and another 215 were looted without being torched. The damage included a school, hospital, churches, stores, and many other black-owned businesses. The destruction impacted up to 35 square blocks. At the end of the day charges were dropped against Dick Rowland and an estimated 300 individuals died along with the wealth of Black Wall Street. 

Unfortunately, the removal and rewriting of history is not an uncommon in American History. Some attribute the massacre to jealousy of Black Wall Street’s success, or undeniable racism. To this day it is hard to not imagine what Tulsa and the economic status of black Americans would look like if the Greenwood District of Tulsa had not been demolished.

100 years later, the economic impact of this devastating event still remains. No criminal charges have been made, and no justice or reparations has been provided to the black communities affected by the false charges against Rowland. 

In 2001 the Race Riot Reconciliation Act was created to ensure 500 scholarships for North Tulsa and an estimated $150,000 was given to families of survivors. However, none of the requests came to fruition. Therefore, in 2003 Harvard Law School Professor, Charles Ogletree, along with hundreds of Tulsa survivors attempted to sue the city of Tulsa. Once again, the case was dismissed after it was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. Scholars are still trying to estimate the economic damages, currently underestimated around 25 million dollars. 

President Biden is expected to meet with the three remaining survivors of the massacre and to ensure legislation to readdress denied insurance claims on damaged property. What has been promising is the work of Congresswoman Jackson Lee, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. 

Congresswoman Lee states that conversation around reparations is underway. “We’re talking also about reparations right now when it comes to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the 100th anniversary of the massacre there, Black Wall Street, the destruction of a viable, economically viable, self-sustaining Black community that was broken up because of racism,” 

Additional work towards justice is led by Congressman Gregory Meeks, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He states that these acts need to be addressed as human rights issues. The anniversary of this event during our current socio-political environment appears to be a recipe for change. I believe that the legislative support the black community has recently gained in light of the 100th anniversary is promising, and many are waiting and watching to see what actions take place next. 

For more information, please review the documents below. 

Insurance Exclusions Left Black Tulsans Footing the Bill for the Massacre. https://www.wsj.com/articles/insurance-exclusions-left-black-tulsans-footing-the-bill-for-the-massacre-11622293201 

Congresswoman urges crowd to keep fighting for Tulsa Race Massacre reparations. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/congresswoman-urges-crowd-to-keep-fighting-for-tulsa-race-massacre-reparations/ar-AAKwUps 

Oklahoma Lawsuit Seeks Reparations In Connection To 1921 Tulsa Massacre https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/09/03/909151983/oklahoma-lawsuit-seeks-reparations-in-connection-to-1921-tulsa-massacre 

Concert commemorating Tulsa race massacre canceled https://news.yahoo.com/concert-event-commemorating-tulsa-race-195118617.html 

Biden laments ‘deep roots of racial terror’ in US on Tulsa massacre anniversary. https://nypost.com/2021/05/31/biden-talks-racial-terror-on-tulsa-massacre-anniversary/ 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Some Companies Have Done Better Than Others Keeping Racial Justice Pledges by Detroit Today - May 28, 2021

"Last year, after the murder of George Floyd, 251 American companies vowed to combat systemic racism within their own organizations. In aggregate, these companies pledged $65 billion to bolster their diversity and equity initiatives. One year later, economist William Michael Cunningham says only $500 million has been allocated toward these efforts.

'We know American corporations can move if they want to … there’s a lot of expertise in communities of color that could help these companies make these changes … the impetus for making these kinds of rapid changes has definitely declined.' —William Michael Cunningham, Creative Investment Research

Cunningham explains that American companies have the resources to honor these pledges, but he says structural and cultural problems, as well as a lack of accountability, are hindering their ability to follow through on their promises."

Economist William Michael Cunningham on the impact of racial justice pledges.

Listen: Checking In On Corporate Commitments To Racial Equity 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Black Lives Matter Pledges: Where are we now?

According to our BLM Tracker, American corporations have pledged $60 billion in memory of George Floyd, mainly to support Black businesses and communities. One year later, we can only identify roughly $250 million in actual dollars spent. 

Also see:

BLACK LIVES MATTER: CORPORATE AMERICA HAS PLEDGED $1.678 BILLION SO FAR. June 10, 2020. https://www.blackenterprise.com/black-lives-matter-corporate-america-has-pledged-1-678-billion-so-far/

Valuable Changemaking for Remote Washington Semester Program Interns. https://www.american.edu/news/20200825-washington-semester-program.cfm

Six Companies Account for 70% of Corporate Black Lives Matter Pledges. https://youtu.be/t7aqn7oGGj0

$50 Billion And A Year Later The World Still Searches For Accountability After George Floyd’s Death. https://tpinsights.com/2021/05/24/50-billion-and-a-year-later-the-world-still-searches-for-accountability-after-george-floyds-death/

American companies pledged $50 billion to Black communities. Most of it hasn’t materialized. https://fortune.com/2021/05/06/us-companies-black-communities-money-50-billion/

Are CEOs living up to the pledges they made after George Floyd’s murder? https://creativeinvest.com/FinTimesMay2021.pdf

It Turns Out, All Those 'Woke' White Allies Were Lying https://www.theroot.com/it-turns-out-all-those-woke-white-allies-were-lying-1846959017

This week, a number of entities claim to have met their BLM commitments. See:

Wells Fargo Fulfills Commitment to Invest $50 Million in 13 Black-Owned Banks: https://www.washingtoninformer.com/wells-fargo-completes-investments-in-13-black-owned-banks-fulfilling-50-million-pledge-made-in-2020/

LISC's Black Economic Development Fund hits $250 million goal, makes first catalytic investments in Black-led banks, real estate developers. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/liscs-black-economic-development-fund-hits-250-million-goal-makes-first-catalytic-investments-in-black-led-banks-real-estate-developers-301300064.html

Bank of America, Wells Fargo Hit Minority Investment Targets: The banking giants have fulfilled pledges made last year to boost investment in minority-owned banks and businesses. https://www.bankingexchange.com/news-feed/item/8719-bank-of-america-wells-fargo-hit-minority-investment-targets

A few things to note:

1. Investments in intermediaries (Venture Capital (VC) funds, banks, community development entities, etc.) are less valuable than direct investments in Black communities and people. Large white financial institutions face two problems: 1.) They do not know enough Black people to effectively deploy large amounts of capital to the Black community and 2.) Of the ones they do know, they don't trust them. Hence their desire to use intermediaries.

2. This is the issue with using banks and other financial institutions as the key capital distribution pipeline: added temporal lags and fees reduce social impact.

We have, since 1994, outlined a number of ways to either reduce or eliminate these lags while increasing social impact. See: https://creativeinvest.com/minwage.html and https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NPVp3lX7VztsBwe_Uv3KvaZR74Azrj9M/view?usp=sharing

In this case, we have designed and outlined a Black Lives Matter (BLM) Corporate Pledge Trust to hold and manage the BLM IOU's corporations have issued. The BLM Trust would be an independent and objective body designed to monitor and account for the performance of corporate and non-profit entities.

Our most recent BLM Pledge database update, to be released next week, will certainly see an increase in the $250 million identified as spent or available, the revision will not come close to the total dollar amount pledged, $60 billion, and is, therefore, still suspect.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

“Investing Inclusively: Building Shareholder Value Through Gender Diversity.” Review by Alice Gabidoulline, Impact Investing Intern, University of Michigan.

Maggie Walker.  In 1903, Maggie L. Walker became both the first African American woman to charter a bank, and the first African American woman to serve as a bank president.

On March 25, 2021, BrightTALK hosted Morningstar’s Amelia Furr—Head of Index Sales, and Equileap’s Diana van Maasdijk—co-founder and CEO. Their presentations focused on “Investing Inclusively: Building Shareholder Value Through Gender Diversity.” 

Ms. van Maasdijk began by providing an overview of Equileap, an ESG data provider focusing solely on gender. Equileap’s mission is to close the equality gap in the workplace, with the added value of being the largest global database on gender equality. The Equileap  database covers 4,000+ mid to large-cap companies in 23 developed economies. Equileap’s scorecard includes 19+ criteria (gender pay gap, parental leave, supplier diversity, etc.) in four categories—A through D. An annual report outlines the top performing companies. This year, top performance only required a score of 74%. Further, Equileap found that 85% of the companies did not publish information about their pay gaps, with a stark contrast between 5% of US companies and 78% of companies in the UK. Even more surprising, 51% of companies did not have anti-sexual harassment policy, and only 19% of companies globally offer flexible working hours and location. Equileap continues to create and publish data to promote their goal of increasing gender diversity in the workplace.

Next, Ms. Furr presented Morningstar’s Gender Diversity Indexes. Covering over 20,000+ indexes including a variety of ESG factors, Morningstar has partnered with Equileap to publish a robust report on gender equality in business. The report can be found here. Ms. Furr provided a variety of lenses and examples to analyze gender diversity. Several approaches outlined included core versus satellite allocation, active versus passive investing, and understanding size/sector/style biases. Ms. Furr also covered several examples, such as the RBC Vision Women’s Ldrsp MSCI Cnd ETF, and the Impact Shares YWCA Women’s Empowerment ETF—the latter scoring in the top 200 by Equileap and including additional ESG screens. Additionally, this presentation covered Morningstar’s Gender Diversity Index Family, which tilts security weights based on Gender Equality scores—capping individual security weight at 5%—and includes “alarm bell” criteria. Ms. Furr closed her presentation by showing how data from “Group 1”, the best-scoring companies of the Gender Diversity Index, outperformed the parent index by 113 basis points. 

The teamwork of Equileap and Morningstar to collect, promote, and publish gender diversity reporting is a step in the right direction. With data such as that the top 20% more gender diverse companies outperform bottom 20% companies by nearly 3% (Glenmede Report, Oct. 2020), investing inclusively brings both the financial and the social returns necessary to create positive impact in the current business landscape. 

To find a recorded version of this webinar, click here

For more on Diversity Investing, see: https://www.creativeinvest.com/FirstInvestingPortfolioDevotedtoDiversity.pdf

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

MAY 24, 2021 Have businesses kept their promises for racial justice? NPR Marketplace. Alice Gabidoulline, Impact Investing Intern, University of Michigan.


On NPR's Marketplace program broadcast May 24th, 2021, Kristen Schwab interviewed Mr. William Michael Cunningham, CEO of Creative Investment Research, and Ms. Gita Rao, who teaches social-impact investing at MIT. They spoke about the current state of corporate diversity pledges, especially remembering the murder and legacy of George Floyd one year ago tomorrow. 

Mr. Cunningham stated the need for an independent trust to create accountability for corporate pledges. While corporations pledged $55 billion to-date, the amount spent has only reached $250 million. Ms. Rao further noted that corporations should have a standardization of disclosure with regards to reporting diversity practices. 

As the landscape of corporate political and social involvement evolves, Mr. Cunningham and Ms. Rao highlight the increasing need for a framework of accountability in this space. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Review of "In Pursuit of Happiness: A Live Virtual Event" by Grace Pottebaum, Impact Investing Intern, Garrett Evangelical-Theological Seminary

 

Atlantic Magazine recently hosted "In Pursuit of Happiness: A Live Virtual Event, which explored the question: what does it take to be happy? Professionals from several fields provided innovative research that seeks contemporary answers to this question. The speakers for this event included Arthur C. Brooks, Deepak Chopra, Angela Duckworth, and many more. My analysis of the pursuit of happiness focuses on the final session, a discussion between Arthur Brooks, and Deepak Chopra. 

How do we measure and define happiness? Author and medicine advocate, Deepak Chopra, provides a detailed model that quantifies internal and external factors that commonly influence an individual’s pursuit of happiness. For example, Chopra states that joy is our innate state when we exist without resistance. Therefore, when we pursue happiness, Chopra argues that you are resisting the stress and struggle of existence in order to claim a spontaneous state of joy. External forces that inhibit one’s ability to effortlessly/peacefully exist (forces that cause stress and struggle), are oftentimes the result of monetary agencies people use in order to pursue happiness. Chopra states that there is no wrong in enjoying the finer things in life but asks: is chasing impermanent happiness worth increasing the risk of personal anxiety and societal injustice? Exploitation of resources, capitalism, colonialism, have all been contributors to inhibiting one’s ability to simply exist. 

In light of this, what do you do when one’s pursuit of happiness is an agent of another's struggle? For example, happiness that comes from power, wealth or status is likely to be accompanied by a fear of losing that agent of happiness. If one’s happiness is dependent on external factors or property outside of themselves, I would argue that it is likely to come at the cost of threatening the material necessities others need in order to live in a state where existing takes care of itself. 

When asked “what is the pursuit of happiness”, Chopra responded by proposing an alternative action. That is, if you invest in the pursuit of consciousness, you do not need to pursue happiness.

Consciousness leads to the manifestation of creativity, imagination, insight, intuition, and visions of greatness. In concluding the final session, Chopra outlined three addictions that often hinder this pursuit. These include the addition to security, sensation, and power. Ironically, addictions do not compromise one’s pursuit of happiness, but they can interfere with knowing your inner self.

Furthermore, conditions of living do not compromise one’s ability to know their inner self yet can compromise quality of life. Therefore, my analysis of the pursuit of happiness suggests that pursuing happiness, which is monetary and impermeant in nature, runs the risk of increasing resource disparity, exploitation and perpetuated resistance. 

Finally, to conclude the session Brooks asked, “what can I do to share more love, and more joy with other people today?” Both speakers answered this question by emphasizing the importance of confronting your attachments and fears. Brooks commented that confronting attachments can lead to sharing the happiness you have acquired by loving yourself. The good news is that love is free, accessible to everyone, and is shown to increase an individual’s happiness. Therefore, in considering agents of happiness, I encourage the consideration of love as it derives from consciousness, eludes monetary value and escapes the imperishable nature of materiality. 

Editor: William Michael Cunningham

Sunday, April 11, 2021

China Creates a Digital Currency. Joseph LaRosa, Impact Investing Intern, The Ohio State University.

Cryptocurrencies surged in popularity recently due to their decentralized nature, transaction speed, and security. Governments around the world have taken note of this trend and are beginning to rollout nationally backed digital currencies. The first major nation to embark on this journey is China, which announced the Digital Yuan (DY). This federally controlled currency has the potential to disrupt modern financial structures and poses the largest threat to the US Dollar since the establishment of the Euro. 

DY allows the Chinese government greater control over the production and circulation of currency. It also adds a means by which the Chinese government can efficiently and effectively transfer funds between citizens, banks, and government entities, all while cutting out the "middleman" in transactions.  

Growing tired of a US dollar-driven world, China made a bold leap into the future, hoping to increase their global economic power. US officials have been quick to express their concern, acknowledging that the DY will likely affect the US’s ability to implement economic sanctions on China, lessen the US's ability to track Chinese government funding expenditures, and even poses a threat to national security. 

Clearly, from the perspective of the US dollar, broad adoption of the DY would have negative implications. In 2019, a team of veteran policymakers at Harvard University conducted an exercise to create a response to a scenario where North Korea developed a nuclear missile secretly funded with DY. These threats will continue to grow as the Chinese government replaces physical tender with digital currency. (We outlined these factors in 2019. See: Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and the Future of Monetary Policy https://www.prlog.org/12785779-blockchain-cryptocurrency-and-the-future-of-monetary-policy.html)

In our 2019 report, Creative Investment Research provided a basic breakdown of the current global reserve currency market structure and compared this to a forecast of the projected structure in 2031. It is important to note the growth of digital currencies such as Bitcoin and DY. 











In our paper, we noted Bitcoin’s success in transforming the global economy by facilitating the (almost) costless transfer of funds between individuals and entities. Given Bitcoin’s deregulated nature and the currency's lack of ties to government entities, we project tremendous growth in its use as a global reserve currency within the next ten years. We project similar, but not as extreme, growth for DY over the next ten years. 

Although many want to draw comparisons between these currencies, in reality, they are very different. DY is controlled by the Chinese government and therefore is less volatile. Growth in the currency will be constrained by Chinese monetary policy which will try to control for macroeconomic factors such as inflation. Despite its restricted growth from a foreign exchange perspective, China wants to continue the so-far successful rollout of DY, with the hope of protecting the sovereignty of its currency. 

The question is, will the US do the same.

See:

Is FedCoin, a US Government-issued cryptocurrency, feasible? https://www.prlog.org/12772509-is-fedcoin-us-government-issued-cryptocurrency-feasible.html

Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and the Future of Monetary Policy https://www.prlog.org/12785779-blockchain-cryptocurrency-and-the-future-of-monetary-policy.html 

Comments to the Reserve Bank of India on Blockchain, Crypto https://www.prlog.org/12765825-comments-to-the-reserve-bank-of-india-on-blockchain-crypto.html

Editor: William Michael Cunningham

Friday, April 2, 2021

Climate Change


Live version: https://twitter.com/i/status/1377996115061190661

BNP Paribas, UBS, Barings, Schroders, Inter-America Development Bank & more

Reuters Events


Just one in five of the world’s biggest listed companies disclosed data about their workforce in an annual survey run by a $7 trillion investor coalition, as corporations respond slowly to pressure to be transparent about their social impact. We expect social factor impacts on corporate activity to accelerate. Events in Minneapolis and the state of Georgia point to a period of rapid change.

As one of the original impact investing analysis firms, Creative Investment Research is proud to be a media partner for Reuters Events ESG Investment North America 2021 (15-16 June), the premier place to understand the materiality of the Social Factor, and why the most senior organizations in the finance & investment community are outperforming the market because of it.

See the full speaker list & agenda at the website here

Get your copy of the 2021 information pack to stay up to date with the latest program and speaker reveals, get first access to the confirmed attendee lists, and gain exclusive promotional and group discount codes!
  • Mike Freno, Chairman & CEO, Barings
  • Sarah Bratton-Hughes, Head of Sustainability, North America, Schroders
  • Herve Duteil, Chief Sustainability Officer, BNP Paribas
  • Jolyne Caruso-Fitzgerald, Vice Chairman - UHNW, Global Wealth Management, UBS
  • Anne Simpson, Director, Governance  & Strategy, CalPERS
  • Anthony Minopoli, President & CIO, Knights of Columbus
  • Lanaya Irvin, CEO, Coqual
  • Catherine Howeth, CEO, ShareAction
  • Erica Karp, CIO, Pathstone Capital
  • Leslie Samuelarich, CEO, Green Century
  • Emily Kreps, Global Director, Capital Markets, CDP
With such a strong line-up from the largest players in the industry, ESG 2021 is the place to be if you are serious about identifying risk and gaining superior investment returns

See the full speaker list & agenda at the website here

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Kevin Anderson at Reuters, listed below, or send an email to info@creativeinvest.com – I’d be more than happy to give you our viewpoint on this important event.

Best regards,

Creative Investment Research (Reuters contact below):

Kevin Anderson
Head of ESG
Markets
Reuters Events
Telephone: +44 (0)2075138928
kev.anderson@thomsonreuters.com

Creative Investment Research is a Media Partner for Reuters Events, part of Reuters News & Media Ltd, 5 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5AQ. Registered in England and Wales: 2505735.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Black Banking Startup Raises $40 Million

According to a press release, "Greenwood, the digital banking platform for Black and Latino individuals and business owners, today announced it has closed $40 million of Series A funding from six of the seven largest U.S. banks and the top two payment technology companies: Truist, Bank of America, PNC, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo (Its still time to Clean House at Wells), Mastercard, and Visa."

The investor group also includes the largest Hispanic bank in the US, Banco Popular. (Looks like the crisis has finally forced the realization that, as MLK noted, "we must 'live together as brothers or perish together as fools." )

FIS, TTV Capital, SoftBank Opportunity Fund, Lightspeed Venture Partners and All-Pro NFL running back Alvin Kamara were also listed as investors.

For a startup to receive funding from six of the seven largest firms in its industry is significant. The key question is why and what will they do with this funding?

Greenwood started out of the BankBlack movement, an effort to redress years of neglect and discrimination.

We have observed a remarkable increase in the performance of minority bank stock: these stocks (blue line) have outperformed the S&P 500 (green line).




The S&P 500 Index (green) returned 74.73% over the past year. The Minority Bank portfolio (blue) returned 112.27% over the same time period. 

At the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in 1994, I suggested the Federal Reserve purchase mortgage-backed securities (MBS) originated by Black banks as part of open market operations. The Fed, then under Alan Greenspan, refused, reversing course only in 2008, when large non-minority banks got into trouble.

We still believe the Fed will need to create a Black bank liquidity pool totaling at least $50 billion by conducting repo and reverse repo transactions, purchasing Treasury, MBS securities (and/or SBA PPP loans) from Black banks, asset managers and fintech firms with a record of actually making loans to the Black community.

Greenwood may very well be one of these. We will see.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

An Impact Analysis of Goldman's "One Million Black Women" Initiative

Goldman Sachs announced the launch of One Million Black Women, a $10 billion investing initiative focused on narrowing opportunity gaps for one million Black women. In reviewing the program, we focus on potential program effectiveness. We also review possible social impact. 

Goldman Sachs, a banking organization headquartered in New York, has a reputation for political savvy. Many economic policymakers in the Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton Administrations, from Treasury Secretary to National Economic Committee chairs have been former Goldman employees. (While the Biden Administrations seems to have limited the number of ex-Goldman employees on staff, they are still present - SEC nominee Gary Gensler, for example.) The bank is also known for rushing to change from investment to commercial banking registration days before the financial crisis of 2008 took root.

One Million Black Women

The firm has pledged to invest $10 billion in Black women led companies and initiatives over the next ten years. 

Advisory Board

Goldman created an "Advisory Board" of Black women and men to provide opinions on managing the program.

Source of Funds

Goldman probably sources funds for the program from internal and external sources. 

Evaluation

Given the sourcing and the timing, we rate this program as having limited actual impact (D) and utility (D). 

As with Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) commitments, Goldman's pledge is subject to change depending on business and economic conditions, is not legally binding, and can be modified or cancelled at any point.

The role and power of the Advisory Board is unclear: our experience suggests this power is likely limited. Further, the Advisory Board is comprised of individuals (with a few exceptions) having limited track records for positive impact on the Black community beyond the symbolic. (A better set of advisors  might have been the three Black women who created Black Lives Matter.) We understand Goldman's reluctance to deal with actual innovators, however, having experience with prior efforts Black groups have made to work with the firm, specifically Goldman's Urban Investment Group. 

External funding sources are likely one of the many government and Federal Reserve liquidity programs. This means Goldman can fund this effort at very low interest rates, which it will then make available to Black women at elevated levels.  

In conjunction with the announcement, Goldman released an economic study titled "Blackwomenomics." (See our website: https://blackwomenomics.com/).

Ethical Concerns

On April 11, 2016, the Department of Justice announced that Goldman Sachs “agreed to Pay More than $5 Billion in Connection with Its Sale of Residential Mortgage Backed Securities.” 

More recently, on October 22, 2020, the firm "agreed to pay nearly $3bn (£2.3bn) to end a probe of its role in the 1MDB corruption scandal. The bank's Malaysian subsidiary also admitted in US court that it had paid more than $1bn in bribes to win work raising money for the Malaysian state-owned wealth fund."

As noted, several former economic policymakers have been Goldman alums. Thus, the firm must bear some responsibility for the failure of economic policy in those years to address both racial discrimination and inequality

These factors reduce the likely impact of the effort. 

Contact: Asahi Pompey, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Global Head of Corporate Engagement. Asahi.Pompey@gs.com. 200 West Street | New York | NY 10282

Our 2017 Investment Advice for Black Women

The announced $10 billion dollar "investment" equals, for each of one million Black women, $10,000.

To maximize social and financial impact, we suggest the firm give each woman $10,000 in Bitcoin today, as we suggested in 2017 to several groups of Black women. (A $10,000 investment made then would now be worth $600,000.) This is a far more honest, ethical and potentially impactful strategy.   

Link to buy $100 of Bitcoin for $90: https://www.coinbase.com/join/cunnin_0?src=android-link


Rating Justification

As we stated in our 2019 talk before the Congressional Black Caucus (below), the fate of Black economic development rests in the hands of Black women. We have calculated the impact coefficient of this demographic to be significant. Thus, any efforts to address this group will have an elevated impact on the Black community overall. Putting a significant effort in this area into the hands of an organization that is ethically and ethnically suspect, with a proven track record of damaging Black economic interests, is inappropriate. 

We have determined that the projected impact coefficient from Goldman is low, given the firm's prior performance in the Black community and in the marketplace overall. Accepting such an effort on face value, without critical review, is foolish. See our comments below on the gap in entrepreneurial activity and the role of Black women for more information on our rating.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Big Banks Violate BLM Pledges

On February 22, the Biden-Harris administration announced reforms to the $284 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These changes directed funding “to the smallest businesses and those that have been left behind in previous relief efforts.”

Among the reforms, the administration established a 14-day exclusive PPP loan application period for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees, including sole proprietors. (Recent data shows that 96 percent of Black-owned businesses operate as sole owner-operator firms.)

The main program administrator, the Small Business Administration, was tasked with eliminating other PPP program impediments. These barriers, including those due to student loan defaults or due to a non-fraud-related criminal record, stopped many businesses from applying for these loans.

In the most potentially impactful reform, PPP loans were directed to one-person (sole proprietor) firms. 

Unfortunately, major financial institutions have formally stated that they will not abide by PPP reforms: JP Morgan Chase notified loan applicants that it “won't let them take advantage of Biden's new rules that let sole proprietors and the self-employed obtain larger loans. Businesses will have to accept less aid via Chase or hurry to find another bank as many lenders prepare to wind down.”

Bank of America announced similar restrictions.

This is the same behavior that was referenced in a "Friend of the Court" brief we filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals. The April, 2020 brief was part of a case brought by a Black-owned firm that sought an injunction preventing Bank of America from limiting Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications. According to news reports at the time, "Bank of America initially would only accept paycheck protection loan applications from small business clients that were active borrowers at the bank." https://www.prlog.org/12820237-william-michael-cunningham-files-amicus-brief-in-paycheck-protection-program-case-20-1438.html 

Last year, large banking institutions, including JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, publicly pledged to support Black Lives Matter (BLM). We believe the refusal to abide by PPP reforms violate the Black Lives Matter pledges each of these institutions made. Their BLM pledges have been published in corporate annual reports and other regulatory filings submitted by these banks, so we believe their refusal to abide by the Biden PPP reforms may have triggered a violation of securities laws and of regulatory obligations. As noted, most Black companies operating in the US are sole proprietors. By refusing to honor their earlier pledge of support, the banks may be guilty of fraud. We suggest securities regulators review this behavior.

Further, in an April 2020 survey we conducted, of the 60% of survey respondents who applied for the PPP program, 33% got some level of funding. One commented that he “received 1/12th of the amount I asked for.” https://www.prlog.org/12819707-ppp-funding-survey-of-african-american-businesses.html 

The defilement of the BLM pledges may also violate the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution, since Black firms are specifically excluded from receiving Federal program benefits that white firms take for granted.

We also suggest banking regulators investigate the BLM pledges and the lack of compliance by large banking organizations. These banks are, in essence, “redlining” Black businesses. 

Rather than suggesting that the public boycott these mega banking institutions, we suggest the public ask major corporate clients of these large banks, specifically firms who also made BLM pledges, to review the PPP sole proprietor situation. These firms include Facebook, Google and most of the S&P 500. 

Asking these firms to review and to possibly stop doing business with these large banks may be a way to enforce BLM pledges. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Over the Past Six Months, a Portfolio of Stock in Minority Banks Beat the S&P 500.

Over the past six months, a portfolio of stock in minority banks beat the S&P 500. The S&P 500 Index (green) returned 74% The Minority Bank portfolio (blue) returned 112%.


Much of this performance has been due to the increased attention being paid to the minority banking sector. The portfolio consists of equal weights in the following banks:

Symbol Name Ethnic Group

BOH Bank of Hawaii Corporation Hispanic

BPOP Popular, Inc. Hispanic

BYFC Broadway Financial Corporation Black

CARV Carver Bancorp, Inc. Black

CATY Cathay General Bancorp Asian

CZBS CITIZENS BANCSHARES CORP GA Black

EWBC East West Bancorp, Inc. Asian

HAFC Hanmi Financial Corporation Asian

HRBK HARBOR BANKSHARES CORP Black

IBOC International Bancshares Corp Hispanic

IBWC IBW FINANCIAL CORP Black

MFBP M & F BANCORP INC Black

PFBC Preferred Bank Hispanic

Now, there are a few things to keep in mind:

It's hard to actually buy this portfolio, mainly because stock in Black-owned banks is hard to come by. It is thinly traded and very illiquid. We are aware of a few with selected availability, but this is the exception, not the rule. Reach out to info@minoritybank.com for more information.

We do not expect this situation to last. Most of the overperformance is due to investments made by large non-minority banks, like JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citibank and Wells Fargo. You can't expect that these institutions will continue to pump up minority bank stocks.

Also see: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/over-past-six-months-portfolio-minority-bank-stock-sp/ 

    Banks Redouble Efforts to Aid Black-owned Businesses. By John Reosti, The American Banker Newspaper. February 24, 2021.

    Banks of all sizes are continuing to direct funds to minority-owned businesses months after the social unrest that followed last year’s death of George Floyd.

    JPMorgan Chase just announced plans to invest $40 million in four Black-run banks. Ally Financial, Banner, Citigroup, Texas Capital Bancshares and First Republic Bank joined JPMorgan in providing capital to help fund Broadway Financial’s pending acquisition of the $435.4 million-asset CFBanc in Washington.

    Four community banks — First National in Strasburg, Va.; Fauquier Bancorp in Warrenton, Va.; Eagle Financial Services in Berryville, Va.; and Potomac Bancshares in Charles Town, W.Va. — recently created a $1 million fund to provide loans to Black-owned businesses and farms in their markets.

    The latest efforts show that the banking industry is still evaluating ways to help underserved markets.

    “There’s no doubt we needed to do an assessment on what more we could do as a firm,” said Brian Lamb, global head of diversity and inclusion at the $3.4 trillion-asset JPMorgan. “I think we took the opportunity in the summer of 2020 to really do that assessment internally.”

    Though JPMorgan declined to disclose how much it invested in the Black-run banks, the $686 million-asset Carver Bancorp in New York said it received $6 million and the $765 million-asset Liberty Financial in New Orleans brough in $10 million.

    The $481.6 million-asset Broadway in Los Angeles disclosed that it will receive $20.2 million from a group of investors that includes six banks after completing its purchase of CFBanc in Washington. The Los Angeles company raised $12.7 million in November after Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center made an investment.

    The $309 million-asset M&F Bancorp in Durham, N.C., did not disclose the size of the investment made by JPMorgan Chase.

    Bank of America invested $950,000 in Carver in October.

    The equity injections may signal an “inflection point” for underserved markets, Carver CEO Michael Pugh said in a Tuesday press release. “Public and private firms are recognizing the importance of investing in communities of color and institutions that support economic empowerment.”

    Smaller banks are finding their own ways to support minority communities.

    Discussions among the Virginia and West Virginia banks that led to the creation of the Banking on Diversity Minority Business Fund began about two years ago, spurred by a task force the Virginia Bankers Association created to focus on financial inclusion and diversity, said Scott Harvard, CEO of the $951 million-asset First National.

    “We were missing out on a really broad, diverse population, so we started talking about what we could do to bridge that gap,” Harvard said. “The events this summer clearly put a spotlight on things. It got everyone’s attention.”

    First National, the $867 million-asset Fauquier, the $1.1 billion-asset Eagle and the $621 million-asset Potomac will use the fund to make interest-free loans to minority-owned enterprises.

    “Initially, we talked about a grant program, but we figured we could leverage more money with a loan fund,” Harvard said. Loans also provide a surer foundation for building long-term relationship with minority businesses, he added.

    The fund “stands out,” said William Michael Cunningham, the CEO of Creative Investment Research in Washington and an economist who has studied Black-owned banks for three decades. “I think it’s exactly the type of thing we need to see.”

    The big banks that have invested in the Black banking sector might have produced more far-reaching results if they had acted in concert, though "it’s hard to question their intentions,” Cunningham said.

    JPMorgan, for its part, plans to be a passive investor in the Black-run banks whose shares it has purchased.

    “In terms of governance, our intent is much more about capacity building and end-to-end solutions for minority depository institutions,” Lamb said. “It’s a lot less focused on governance.”

    The goal ultimately is to give Black-run banks enough tools to serve as long-term, durable financial partners in minority neighborhoods.

    “We know there’s been a contraction in this space for the past two decades,” Lamb said. “When these institutions are active in their local communities, those communities have a better chance of growing and thriving.”

    Tuesday, February 23, 2021

    African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) AND THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS. Faisal Gbadegbe, African Trade and ESG Associate

    The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by the United Nations at the end of 2015, seek to develop the living conditions and conservation of the environment especially in developing countries. It also seeks to eliminate inequality across the globe in all sectors.

    SDG 16 and 17 clearly recognize the fact that only through the implementation of laws and enforcement of same can we guarantee the SDGs. Implementation of the SDGs will therefore require that countries use a wide range of policy and program approaches. It is therefore pleasant and refreshing to learn that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has a strong development focus, highlighting economic and social development. 

    The AFRICAN UNION’s (AU) Agenda 2063 highlights the point that Africa’s growth and integration into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is part of the Agenda agreement. The positive aspect is that African Countries, by signing and ratifying the AfCFTA, will in the long run, have to ensure that their domestic laws incorporate the SDGs; AfCFTA is an indirect implementation of the SDGs!

    However, although the AfCFTA references sustainable development in its objectives and specifically refers to some areas covered by the SDGs (such as gender equality and food security), full alignment with the seventeen SDGs and their 169 goals and 230 targets will require addressing a number of additional areas of law beyond those slated for Phase II negotiations. These include strategies to address food security, health (including rules on medicines and medical equipment, which are increasingly important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic), and environment and climate change, along with binding rules on gender, labor, and other aspects of human rights. (1)

    (1) Derived from Katrin Kuhlmann, Chantal Line Carpentier, Negin Shahiar, Tara Francis, and Ana Maria Garces Escobar, Trade Policy for the New International Economic Order: A Sustainable Development Model for Trade in the Midst of International Protectionism and Decentralization, 2020 And The African Continental Free Trade Area : Toward a New Legal Model for Trade and Development by Katrin Kuhlmann and Akinyi Lisa Agutu in Geo. J. Int’l L. 4 (2020)

    Monday, February 1, 2021

    GameStop


    On crowdfunding website Kickstarter, 57,502 gaming projects have raised $1.37 billion dollars as of January, 2021. In fact, the most successful crowdfunding project raised $300 million (and counting) for Star Citizen, a computer game.

    GameStop is a crowdfunding project.

    Along with the recent increase in the value of bitcoin, from $3,000 to $42,000 (low to peak in 2020), this points to the main problem with economics and finance: these "fields" serve the needs of a small, non-minority group of people. They are also, at core, racist and dishonest.

    We pointed this out some time ago in comments to the US Securities and Exchange Commission: December 22, 2003 "Envy, hatred, and greed have flourished in certain capital market institutions, propelling ethical standards of behavior downward. Without meaningful reform, there is a small (but significant and growing) risk that our economic system will simply cease functioning." http://www.sec.gov/rules/proposed/s71903/wmccir122203.pdf

    Regulators, including the SEC, failed to protect the public interest, having been prohibited from doing so by Congressional and Senate republican legislators. As we noted in 2006, "Individuals and market institutions with the power to safeguard the economic system, including investment analysts and rating agencies, have been compromised. Few efficient, effective and just safeguards are in place. Statistical models created by the firm show the probability of system-wide market failure has increased over the past eight years. Investors and the public are at risk." http://www.sec.gov/rules/proposed/s71005/wcunningham5867.pdf February 6, 2006.

    Less than two years later, this decline in regulatory ethics led to the 2008 financial crisis and an economy-wide $19 trillion dollar loss.

    The financial crisis of 2008 also led to the development of crowdfunding, bitcoin and cryptocurrency, all a direct result of the failure of financial institution regulators. Cryptocurrency and it's underlying technology, blockchain, highlight the hidden, fourth function of money. The three widely recognized main functions of money are as: a medium of exchange, a unit of account, a store of value. There is a fourth function of money that is hidden and rarely discussed: as a means of social control.

    GameStop and cryptocurrency force this function into the open.

    Monday, January 25, 2021

    Biden’s Brilliant Start


    Sounding long overdue and welcome words at his inauguration, President Biden has gotten off to a brilliant start.

    The new President signed thirty (30) executive orders in three days. One third directly reverse the policies of the prior Administration. As the first real first attempt by any Administration to address the COVID-19 crisis, we applaud the effort.

    What’s brilliant about these policies is the honest way they address the touchstone of American politics: race. One of the first Executive Orders issued by the Biden Administration mandated a “comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all.” The executive order requires the US Government to “identify the best methods, consistent with applicable law, to assist agencies in assessing equity with respect to race, ethnicity, religion, income, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability.” Finally, the order requires that “each agency...assess whether underserved communities and their members face systemic barriers in accessing benefits and opportunities available” from agency policies and programs.

    We also are positive about the Biden Administration’s effort to increase the minimum wage from $7.50 to $15. As we stated in 2019 at a session on Black Wealth held at the Congressional Black Caucus, (see: https://youtu.be/x4ukwLKqEzs?t=1242) this is the one economic policy that would have the most immediate and positive impact on the Black community.

    Our optimism is, however, leavened by memory: the Obama Administration also got off to a very fast and hopeful start. To make the effort as effective as possible, the current Administration will need to recognize some hard truths. These executive order-based initiatives suffer from the faults of their makers: they are first steps one would expect from a group of wealthy white people: minimum wage policies from people who have never worked a minimum wage job and food stamp policies from wealthy white people who have never had to depend on them. In a sense, these flaws are similar to the stereotypical racial attitudes that were the hallmark of the prior Administration.

    This may be due to the fact that the Administration has chosen to fill its economic team with persons beholden to Wall Street, not strategic economic thinkers operating in the public interest. This increases the risk that the social and economic performance of the Administration will not be as positive as it could be.

    The President named former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury Secretary. Ms. Yellen’s tenure at the Fed is particularly concerning. She never pushed the Fed policy envelope to increase economic fairness. In fact, her ties to Wall Street are so close that she needs to obtain “clearance” from an internal Treasury ethics official if she is required to participate in any matters involving Citi, Goldman Sachs, or any other bank that paid her.

    This concern is particularly relevant in light of testimony Ms. Yellen made to the House Financial Services Committee in 2015, where she stated that “there really isn’t anything directly the Federal Reserve can do to affect the structure of unemployment across groups, and unfortunately, it’s long been the case that African-American unemployment rates tend to be higher than those on average in the nation as a whole.” See: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-janet-yellen-wrong-black-unemployment-cunningham-am-mba/

    In addition, the President named Brian Deese, a BlackRock executive, to head the National Economic Council. BlackRock is the largest money management firm in the US, but the thought processes and skills needed to fully protect the public interest in a crisis differ greatly from Wall Street profit maximizing money management skills. A cursory look at BlackRock’s track record reveals a trail of economic damage. In addition, the firm has a history of discrimination. (See: New Jersey, BlackRock Sued for Alleged Discrimination and Theft. Bloomberg News. Bob Van Voris and Kelsey Butler, June 23, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-23/new-jersey-blackrock-sued-for-alleged-discrimination-theft May 1, 2014. BlackRock is a "Toxic environment for women and minorities." See: https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-BlackRock-RVW4156964.htm )

    We also observe that Secretary of State nominee Antony J. Blinken, made seven figures advising companies like “private equity giant Blackstone and the asset management company Lazard.” The nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, consulted for Palantir, a firm which has provided “data and surveillance services to law enforcement, including the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” (See: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/01/us/politics/yellen-speaking-fees-disclosure.html )

    The popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over with the same people and expecting different results. Rather, we suggest they immediately hire the three Black women who created "Black Lives Matter", a protest movement that generated activity on all seven continents.

    We need a team that understands most rich people rarely have the ability to operate in the public interest, as the Trump administration has proven conclusively. In 2020, they created 56 new billionaires while from 8 to 14 million people, many of them Black and Hispanic, fell into poverty. (See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/16/poverty-rising/ and https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/research-note-number-of-people-in-families-with-below-poverty ). This is especially obvious now: most of the 140,000 jobs lost in the last quarter of 2020 were formerly held by women (particularly black and Hispanic women).

    We applaud this Administration’s fast start and look forward to supporting their efforts, but we can no longer afford uneven, unfair and wealth concentrating economic policies. While the first week of the Administration gives us reason to be optimistic, the performance bar is very low, and four years is a long time.