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You continue to worry that many companies are not living their values: Ariel Investments founder John Rogers

Brian Sozzi
·3 min read

Corporate America power player and Ariel Investments founder John Rogers is staying upbeat that big companies will start better living up to their values and improve diversity in 2021.

“I think you continue to worry that many, many corporations are not living their values and when it comes to economic decisions, they’re not doing it right,” Rogers told Yahoo Finance Live.

“We need to keep pushing and pushing to get economic justice for minority communities here in this country. That’s one of the things I’m hopeful for,” he said.

Rogers points to progress being made by some lawmakers. “We have a progressive Congress. And when we have Joyce Beatty on the House Financial Services Committee working with chairman Maxine Waters, they are putting a lot of pressure on all of the financial institutions to do the right thing and do business with minority firms. You see congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Congressman Joseph Kennedy sending letters to the largest college endowments in the country and putting pressure on them to work with using African-American money managers and minority-owned money managers for the first time,” he said.

“Often many universities will hire black and brown people to do the construction and the catering, which are the important parts of the economy. And when it comes to who is managing the endowment it is traditional all white males,” he added.

John Rogers Jr., Founder, Chairman and CEO, Ariel Investments, takes part in a panel discussion titled "U.S. Overview: Is the Recovery Sustainable?" at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS)
John Rogers Jr., Founder, Chairman and CEO, Ariel Investments REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

To be sure, Rogers has a unique position from which to speak.

For one, Ariel Investments is one of the most influential money managers in the game — managing more than $13.3 billion. The company has sizable positions in household-name companies such as Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE), Nielsen (NLSN) and Meredith (MDP). The company’s ability to throw its weight around in the markets gets Rogers access to the thinking inside some of the most influential C-suites in the country.

Rogers also sits on the boards of high-profile global companies, such as McDonald’s (MCD), The New York Times (NYT) and Nike (NKE), that no doubt wrestle with everything from how to diversify workforces to how to sustainably drive shareholder value.

After months of many companies reflecting on how they stack up on diversity after the senseless killing of George Floyd, some tangible actions are finally starting to take shape.

Perhaps the most prominent move on Wall Street has come out the Nasdaq (^IXIC) .

Earlier this month, the Nasdaq put forth a mandate with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that companies listed on its exchange must have at least two diverse board members. That includes one person who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as an under-represented minority or LGBTQ+. The proposal is awaiting SEC approval.

Some 75% of the 3,200 plus companies listed on the Nasdaq do not meet the proposed new mandate, according to The New York Times.

An argument could be made that the 75% is not living up to its values, as Rogers points out. Hopefully 2021 is the year that changes.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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