New York Governor Takes Bond Issuance to Task

Task Force to help eliminate barriers for M/WBEs

compare New York State’s performance to other states. “New York is way behind other states. The executive order is designed to create fairness and inclusion,” he said, confounded that even Mississippi and Alabama, states once known for unjust race relations, outperformed New York in awarding M/WBEs in the financial sector. “Fairness is that the companies that have already met the threshold get the opportunity that they earned.”

Like USB Securities, which has shut down its municipal finance operations, many of the large Wall Street-based firms have suffered significant losses and are laying people off. “Smaller and minority firms are absorbing some of those employees,” says David Womack, managing director at Rice Financial Products Co. “If the governor’s actions can help encourage these firms to grow their business, it can in some manner blunt or mitigate the impact of what is going on in the broader financial marketplace.”

As executive director of the Dormitory Authority, Williams will serve as the chief administrative and operating officer of one of the leading public finance and construction management agencies in the nation. The Authority annually ranks among the top five issuers of tax-exempt bonds in the nation. In 2007, it sold $4.6 billion in bonds (third in the nation) and had a portfolio of $35 billion in outstanding bonds. M/WBE underwriters served as senior managers in only about 5% of those transactions.

Williams’ experiences as an attorney — he helped Williams & Harris L.L.P. become the first minority-owned law firm recognized as a bond counselor by the state of NY — has helped to prepare him for this new post. More recently he was a principal in a boutique investment banking company. “I understand the benefits and potential of increasing diversity to the bond issuance process,” he said.

The task force will implement the recommended new practices for selecting MWBE underwriters by October 15, 2008, and also issue a preliminary report on April 15, 2009 and a final report on January 31, 2010.

“The task force timeline is very aggressive. We want to get to the bottom of the questions and issues that the governor raised and get a systematic way to expand opportunities for firms that are already prequalified,” says Williams, who also wants newer firms to join that prequalified list.

“We will look at how to streamline reporting so that we are getting critical data points to determine whether or not a firm is getting access to business. There has to be follow-up in a systematic way and on a statewide basis,” explains Williams, a member of the Earl G. Graves Board of Directors and a former president of 100 Black Men Inc. in New York.

“As you can see the record of the state has been quite abysmal in terms of inclusion of women and minorities,” says Stewart-Cousins. “When Paterson was the Lt. Gov., he was able to keep focus on that particular issue and see that uppermost in his agenda is making good the promise that NY holds for Minority and Women owned businesses. This is quite a

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