New York Governor Takes Bond Issuance to Task

On Thursday, in conjunction with his appointment of Paul T. Williams to the position of executive director of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, Gov. David Paterson signed an executive order to increase utilization of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise underwriters for state debt offerings. His actions demonstrate his unwavering commitment to minority- and women-owned businesses.

“There is a new sheriff in town,” Gov. Paterson declared at a news conference, while black senators cheered. Indeed, according to Paterson, the time for someone to lay down the law was long overdue.

Although article 15A of New York law, which charged state agencies with establishing employment and business participation goals for minorities and women in 1988, was extended in 2003 and reexamined in 2007 by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the financial sector was not covered by this law, explains Michael Jones-Bey, executive director of the New York State Division of Minority & Women Business Development. From 1995 to 2006, the division’s staff was cut from 35 to 11 by previous administrations. “Black firms received 0.66% of business, but were 10% of the prequalified companies,” says Jones-Bey.

Before Paterson signed the executive order, article 15A did not include banking, insurance, or sales of securities and bonds. “We are issuing an executive order that will establish guidelines for what we are hoping will aim to increase minority underwriters in the areas of state debt offerings,” Paterson stated. “In addition, we are going to set up transparent business models that will govern the underwriting of the state’s bond transactions.”

“We know that in Gov. Patterson we have someone who has had a long-term commitment to creating opportunity that would extend to minority- and women-owned businesses,” says Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (Downstate Co-Chair for the New York State Senate Democratic Minority M/WBE Task Force).

Paterson reported that Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises qualified for 35% of contracts but received only5%; a mere 1/7 of the total. “Since 2004, New York State has issued $22.3 billion of debt. The minority firms participated in only 3% of that,” Paterson pointed out. “When you factor in their participation based on the value of the debt, it is less than 1%.”

“Frankly, New York has been behind other major states’ governmental bond issuers in giving business to African American firms; particularly those based in New York,” says J. Donald Rice Jr., CEO of Rice Financial Products Co (No. 6 on the BE INVESTMENT BANKS list with $30 billion in managed issues). “New York is certainly the home of Wall Street. One would expect that if African American firms were going to grow you would see them grow in the Wall Street area. For the last 20 years we have been the only African American firm specializing in municipal bonds to develop in the New York market. In 2007 we did no bond business in New York State. Now we hope that will change.”

In his address, Paterson challenged state agencies to measure compliance and