For Immediate Release
NEWARK, NJ – Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s Department of the Treasury, Division of Investment (DOI), BlackRock Alternative Advisors, and Cliffwater LLC, were named as Defendants in a federal lawsuit filed today. Wigdor LLP filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on behalf of Blueprint Capital Advisors on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
The Complaint details allegations against the Defendants regarding their misappropriation and improper use of proprietary information obtained from Blueprint, a Black-owned firm. Blueprint alleges that, in the course of investment-related due diligence with DOI and Cliffwater, confidential information and trade secrets regarding their business plans and a new and innovative investment program designed and developed by Blueprint called “FAIR” was improperly handed over to BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, whose executive management is predominantly composed of white men.
“Blueprint was exploited for its innovative and advantageous business concept and its status as a Black-owned firm was used as a justification for this injustice,” said Lawrence M. Pearson, a partner at Wigdor LLP, the firm representing Blueprint. “As the Complaint makes clear, a DOI official admitted the discriminatory reason for Blueprint being cast aside for BlackRock, whose own CEO has acknowledged its serious shortcomings regarding diversity. Through their alleged actions, BlackRock and the New Jersey DOI both betrayed the public trust and did their best to hobble a promising minority-owned business.”
As the Complaint states, the DOI and Cliffwater, including various involved individuals who are named as Defendants personally, are accused of promising a contractual relationship and $500 million investment to Blueprint in exchange for the exclusive right to adopt Blueprint’s FAIR program. Blueprint received requests that went far beyond normal due diligence documents, including business plans, profit and loss projections, fee models and spreadsheets, negotiating methods, term sheets and prospective client lists, which Blueprint judiciously guarded through, among other things, non-disclosure agreements, employee confidentiality agreements, disclaimers, and watermarks on documents.
After Blueprint transferred over one thousand pages of confidential information in over one hundred emails and participated in over 50 conference calls and meetings, the Defendants never proposed Blueprint to the State Investment Council. Instead, after giving multiple excuses for delays in the approval process, the DOI secretly transferred Blueprint’s trade secrets to BlackRock and proposed BlackRock usurp Blueprint’s FAIR program and intellectual property.
As Blueprint alleges, in the aftermath of the revelation that Blueprint’s investment opportunity and confidential information had been misappropriated, a New Jersey official admitted to Blueprint that the State of New Jersey’s State Investment Council “is not a fan of doing business with women-owned or minority-owned firms.” The official also told Blueprint that, if the firm was ever going to be approved, its materials had to be cleansed of any mention of its Black-owned status.
The suit alleges improper use of a confidential business idea, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, racial discrimination and retaliation, and other claims.
“As our complaint states, when Blueprint approached the Murphy Administration and the DOI about its wrongdoing, which was documented, the DOI refused to investigate the matter and instead retaliated against Blueprint in a way seemingly designed to destroy the firm,” said Jacob Walthour, Jr., Blueprint co-founder and CEO. “The industry should recognize that years of attempts by Blueprint to address this situation were ignored and rebuffed by the Defendants. Sadly, even today, a Black-owned firm like Blueprint has no voice and to get justice from the powerful Murphy Administration, Wall Street’s biggest firm, and one of its more influential institutional consultants, it was necessary to file this complaint in a court of law.”
Under the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy, the DOI has not approved a new minority- or female-owned investment manager in his first 24 months in office. Nor has the administration hired a Black or Latino investment officer. According to the Complaint, Blueprint’s leadership was told that “investing in minority-owned firm’s is against our fiduciary responsibility,” by a senior Murphy Administration official in July 2018.
At least six current and former New Jersey state employees are involved in the lawsuit’s allegations, including:
- Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Treasurer, State of New Jersey
- Dini Ajmani, Assistant Treasurer, State of New Jersey
- Samantha Rosenstock, former Head of Investments, Division of Investment
- Jason MacDonald, former Senior Portfolio Manager at Division of Investment
- Christopher McDonough, former Director of the Division of Investment
- Corey Amon, Director of New Jersey’s Division of Investment
To see the full complaint, click here.
“The events of the past four years have caused Blueprint, each of its employees, and their families tremendous pain – not just financial pain but emotional pain,” said Jacob Walthour, Jr., co-founder of Blueprint Capital Advisors. To have someone deny you because you are Black is both humiliating and humbling. I have been doing this for 30 years and my track record, titles, reputation and success meant nothing here. It’s really simple. They liked Carrie and my idea. For factors outside of our control, they just didn’t like us.”
“Sadly, the treatment of Blueprint is indicative of how things really go down when no one is looking,” Walthour said. “There is an entrenched ‘good old boys’ network in Trenton and the DOI that has never worked to the benefit of minorities or women,” concluded Walthour.
Senator Ron Rice, Chair of the New Jersey Association of Black Legislators called on the Murphy Administration to launch a formal investigation into the allegations a year ago and again in 2020, but Murphy has so far resisted. Rice said in a letter addressed to the administration, “What happened to Blueprint and Mr. Walthour, over the course of the last four years, appears to be a modern-day lynching and is a stain and a black eye on the State of New Jersey. . . I believe the neglect of his request to be heard and meet face to face never would have happened if Mr. Walthour were not African-American.”
Blueprint Capital Advisors is seeking declaratory, injunctive and equitable relief to obtain a court order that Defendants correct and reverse their alleged discriminatory practices, as well as monetary damages.
Blueprint was founded in 2015 by Jacob Walthour Jr. and Carrie Pickett. The two sought to provide clients with an investment vehicle focused on reducing the costs associated with alternative investment strategies. Collectively, Mr. Walthour and Ms. Pickett have over fifty years’ experience working for some of the most prestigious firms in the financial services industry. They worked together in the investment management division of Cowen & Company prior to founding Blueprint Capital Advisors.
Contact: Jennifer Farmer, firstname.lastname@example.org,