Goldman Sachs quietly scrubbed references to race from its eligibility criteria for a two-day “diversity symposium” after legal experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation the program could run into problems with federal civil rights laws.
The eligibility criteria for Goldman Sachs’ 2023 MBA Diversity Symposium previously restricted the program to students “that identify as Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American, or women,” according to a web archive from Sept. 13. The eligibility requirements no longer include race or gender, the current webpage shows, a change that follows a Saturday DCNF report on race and gender-restricted opportunities for college students offered by top Wall Street investment banking firms.
The program is now open to “first-year MBA students interested in pursuing a 2024 Summer Associate opportunity,” according to the updated information page. Goldman Sachs now notes at the bottom of the page that “students that identify as Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American, or women are encouraged to apply.”
The symposium is designed to provide students with a closer look at the company and networking opportunities as they prepare for the Summer Associate application process, according to its webpage.
Though there is no contract or employment decision providing grounds for a direct challenge to the program, George Mason University School of Law professor David Bernstein previously told the DCNF that Goldman Sachs’ program could potentially be used “as evidence of intent to discriminate” in legal action brought by a white individual. Alternatively, he said a regulatory body could bring action against the program.
A Goldman Sachs spokesperson previously told the DCNF the company regularly hosts “a variety of information sessions to increase awareness of opportunities at the firm for all students both on and off campus.”
Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are among the other investment banking firms that run programs prioritizing students by race and gender. While many add statements clarifying their programs are open to all, Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow GianCarlo Canaparo told the DCNF this may not be enough to avoid legal trouble.
“[T]hat’s not enough to save them if, in fact, they give racial preferences,” he told the DCNF.
Canaparo also said that whether programs violate civil rights laws “turns on whether they are employment opportunities—as opposed to mere outreach efforts,” noting Goldman Sachs’ symposium seems to be outreach only.
Conservative legal groups have increasingly challenged corporate diversity practices. A nonprofit founded by Edward Blum, the activist behind the cases that led to the Supreme Court overturning affirmative action in higher education, recently filed lawsuits against an Atlanta-based investment manager and a law firm for grant and fellowship programs with race-based eligibility criteria.
The law firm, Morrison & Foerster, removed references to race and sexual orientation from its “Keith Wetmore IL Fellowship for Excellence, Diversity, and Inclusion” fellowship eight days after Blum’s lawsuit was filed.
Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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