by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Amid an uptick in race-conscious hiring programs throughout corporate America, many prominent businesses are now writing racial and gender quotas into their credit agreements with banks, tying the cost of borrowing to the companies’ workforce diversity, a Washington Free Beacon analysis found.
The businesses that have struck such agreements include the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the consulting groups Ernst & Young and AECOM, insurers Prudential and Definity Financial, private equity firms Black Rock and Carlyle Group, the technology company Trimble, and the telecommunications giant Telefonica.
Over the past two years, each of those companies has secured a lending agreement, known as a credit facility, that links the interest rate charged by banks to the company’s internal diversity targets, creating a financial incentive to meet them. If the business achieves its targets, it won’t have to pay as much interest on the loans it takes out; if it falls short, it is required to pay more.
Under the terms of BlackRock’s $4.4 billion credit facility, for example, Wells Fargo will lower the firm’s interest rate by 0.05 percent if it hits two benchmarks—a 30 percent increase in the share of black and Hispanic employees by 2024, and a 3 percent increase in the share of female executives each year—or hike the rate by the same amount if it misses both.
The agreements, which typically involve multiple banks, are effectively credit cards for businesses: Rather than make a onetime loan, lenders extend a continuous line of credit that companies can dip into at will, either to cover operating costs or as a rainy day fund for emergencies. That means changes in a facility’s interest rate—even modest ones like BlackRock’s 0.05 percent diversity adjustment—can have an appreciable effect on a business’s bottom line.