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NYC Retirement Systems asking prospective managers new questions on discrimination

Managers wishing to do business with the New York City Retirement Systems now will be asked if companies they invest in "maintain policies to comply with all applicable non-discrimination laws" as part of the pension system's evaluation process, according a news release Friday from Scott Stringer, city comptroller and fiduciary to the five pension funds within the $194 billion system.

Prospective managers also must disclose "if they have internal non-discrimination policies and best practices," the news release said. Those policies and practices cover "all legally protected groups, including race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, veteran status and disability," the release said.

Mr. Stringer said the new requirement was based on the U.S. Supreme Court's recent 7-2 decision regarding a baker's refusal on religious grounds to make a wedding cake for a same-sex male couple (Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. et al vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission). The majority said its ruling focused on the commission showing "elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs" motivating the baker's objection when the court ruled in favor of the couple.

The ruling "does not change how we do business here in New York," Mr. Stringer said in the news release. "Discrimination of any kind is a threat to our communities and potentially creates risks for our fund investments."

Because the city pension system relies almost entirely on external managers, it asks prospective managers a series of questions covering investment strategy and organizational structure as well as environmental, social and governance policies and procedures, the news release said.