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Justice Roundtable Letter to Congressional Leaders

May 5, 2020

The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader

United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles Schumer,  Minority Leader

United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker  

United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader                                                   United States House of Representatives,  Washington, DC 20515

(Transmitted by Email) 

RE: Adopt provisions to protect, release, and support reentry of incarcerated people in the COVID-19 response package.

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

 

The undersigned organizations urge you to include in the COVID-19 response package under development now provisions to protect, release, and support reentry of incarcerated people.  In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals incarcerated in and working at U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers face a public health crisis due to existing unsanitary and overcrowded conditions of confinement. For the past two months, medical and public health experts have called for reductions in incarceration levels to limit overcrowding and protect those individuals in custody who are at high risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.

While selected releases have occurred at the federal, state and local level, the actions have been insufficient.  Attached, please find for your review a short summary of specific recommendations for Congress to undertake to accomplish these imperatives.

 

Incarcerated people and correctional staff remain uniquely vulnerable to infection and failure to reduce incarceration rates overall have resulted in COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in correctional facilities nationwide. To fully respond to COVID-19, Congress must take immediate action to protect individuals who are incarcerated and working at correctional facilities; incentivize states and localities to reduce the number of incarcerated people and ensure that federal and tribal facilities do the same; and support safe reentry upon release.

 

If Congress does not respond to the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks at incarceration and detention facilities, it will increase the damage that COVID-19 will wreak on countless lives, impacting families and communities nationwide.  It also will prevent the U.S. from fully overcoming the domestic COVID-19 epidemic as individuals both working at and incarcerated in correctional facilities continue to travel between these facilities and the community without support.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration of this important issue.  If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Justice Roundtable Reentry Working Group Co-Chair Jenny Collier at jcollier@colliercollective.org, Justice Roundtable Sentencing Reform Working Group Co-Chair Kara Gotsch at kgotsch@sentencingproject.org, or Justice Roundtable Convener Nkechi Taifa at nkechi@thetaifagroup.com.

 

Sincerely,

 

ACLU

African American Juvenile Justice Project

Akron Votes

Aleph Institute

Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare

Black Family Summit

Braxton Institute

Bread for the World

Campaign for Youth Justice

CAN-DO Foundation

Center for American Progress

Center for Disability Rights

Center for Law and Social Policy

Church of Scientology National Affairs Office

Coalition for Juvenile Justice

Community Catalyst

Community Healing Network, Inc.

Criminalization of Poverty Project at IPS

CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants)

CURE-DC

Demand Justice

Drug Policy Alliance

Equal Justice USA

Greater Akron Canton Chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers

Health in Justice Action Lab, Northeastern University

Heartland Alliance

HIRE Network

Human Rights for Kids

Innocence Project

Just Futures Law

Justice For Families

Justice Policy Institute

Justice Strategies

Juvenile Justice Coalition

Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Legal Action Center

Little Piece of Light

Mental Health America

NAACP

National Action Network

National Association for Rural Mental Health

National Association of Black Social Workers

National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

National Association of Social Workers

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Council of Churches

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Maryland Chapter

National Crittenton

National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)

National Equality Action Team

National Juvenile Defender Center

National Low Income Housing Coalition

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Operation Restoration

Parent Watch

Pathways to Reentry Committee of the ReThink Justice Coalition

ReThink Justice Coalition

Richmond Association of Black Social Workers

Safer Foundation

StoptheDrugWar.org

Strategies for Youth

Students for Sensible Drug Policy

The Association of Black Psychologists, Inc.

The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

The Daniel Initiative

The Justice Roundtable

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Sentencing Project

The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

Treatment Communities of America

Tzedek Association

Union for Reform Judaism

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

 

 

 

 

 

GOV. PHIL MURPHY’S DIVISION OF INVESTMENT, ALONG WITH BLACKROCK ALTERNATIVE ADVISORS & CLIFFWATER LLC SUED FOR RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, RETALIATION AND FRAUD BY NEW JERSEY’S MOST PROMINENT BLACK ASSET MANAGER

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.

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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, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org,