To stave off fraud and future Wall Street meltdowns, some reform advocates are pushing for government regulators to become more ethnically diverse.
In a study titled "Government That Looks Like America?," The Greenlining Institute found that, for the most part, financial regulators in the U.S. don't reflect the ethnic and racial makeup of the country's population. The Greenlining Institute is a nonprofit organization that researches and advocates for improved policies in the areas of finance, health, energy and the environment.
The group believes improved diversity will result in fairer policies, practices and increased participation by minority groups in the financial marketplace.
The institute obtained workforce data at 19 federal financial regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve banks in Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Dallas; Kansas City, Mo.; Minneapolis; New York; Philadelphia; Richmond, Va.; San Francisco and St. Louis.
The study found blacks were best represented among all people of color in the mid-level management category. In two agencies, they make up 28.4 and 39.7 percent of reported mid-level managers. In five agencies, they were between 12.6 and 13.6 percent of the mid-level management category.
The San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank received praise as well. Of 15 agencies, San Francisco's bank had the third-highest percentage of ethnically diverse executive managers, with people of color making up about 16.7 percent of the agency's decision-makers.
Latinos made up the group with the smallest number of managers, according to the report.
Even though Latinos made up 36 percent of the California civilian labor force in 2010, they constitute only 3.3 percent of executive management and 6.5 percent of mid-level management at San Francisco's Federal Reserve Bank. Only at Dallas' Federal Reserve Bank did Latinos have a significant mid-level presence (19.3 percent).
The study calls for diversity data to be made publicly available and easily accessible. It also calls for more analysis of existing minority recruitment and retention policies and improved standards.
“A glaring piece of data in the report is the huge lack of representation of Latinos,” said Orson Aguilar, executive director of Greenlining. “If their management more mirrored the workforce, it could have prevented the mortgage fiasco.”
The study examines the impact of a section of Congress' financial reform bill that mandates that regulatory agencies and their contractors improve their diversity policies and make a "good-faith effort" to increase their ethnic representation.
The requirement was added to the law by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a Los Angeles Democrat, who argued regulatory agencies couldn't prevent discrimination and other abuses without an adequate understanding of ethnic communities at the senior management level. As a result, 20 agencies have now created Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion to monitor diversity efforts.
Mark A. Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, told The New York Times in 2010 that the diversity requirement was “a wild card" in the new reform law.
"The language of the clause is so vague that it could do nothing at all," he told The Times. "But in the hands of a regulator who really wanted to make an issue out of diversity hiring, it could have a substantial impact.”