To Increase Board and CEO Diversity, New York Comptroller Urges Companies to Adopt NFL’s Rooney Rule

November 15, 2019

Last month, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced an initiative calling on companies to adopt a policy requiring the consideration of both women and people of color for every open board seat and CEO position.

According to the press release, “the Comptroller’s proposed policy is based on the ‘Rooney Rule’ in the NFL, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching, general manager jobs and equivalent front office positions. Comptroller Stringer’s call includes gender and racial/ethnic diversity, and is the first time a large institutional investor has called for this structural reform for both new board directors and CEOs.”

Comptroller Stringer, who manages New York City’s $200 billion public pension fund, launched his campaign by sending a letter to 56 S&P 500 companies that do not currently have a Rooney Rule policy. In addition to adopting a policy of including qualified female and racially/ethnically diverse candidates on the initial list of candidates for all open board seats and CEO positions, Comptroller Stringer’s letter urges companies to broaden the pool of potential candidates by considering candidates from non-traditional environments such as government, academic or non-profit organizations.

The Rooney Rule initiative is the third phase of the Comptroller’s Boardroom Accountability Project, launched in 2014 in order to “make boards more diverse, independent and climate competent.” Given the success of the first two phases (widespread adoption of “proxy access” and the “board matrix” method for disclosing details about company board directors, respectively), the likely impact of Comptroller Stringer’s latest initiative should not be underestimated.

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