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Adena Friedman makes the case for Nasdaq’s boardroom diversity push

August 5, 2021, 12:43 PM UTC
Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit
Adena Friedman speaks in New York City on Oct. 10, 2019.
Jim Spellman—Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Instacart poaches another ex-Facebook exec, Rihanna is officially a billionaire, and we hear from Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman. Have a lovely Thursday.

– Up for debate. Virtual IPOs, meme stocks, crypto. Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman talked about them all in her new interview with Emma that published this week.

Nasdaq had expected the past year to be “pretty challenging” for IPOs, Friedman said, “but it turned out to be the busiest time on the capital markets in terms of capital raising since the mid-1990s.”

That investor interest helped spawn the meme stock craze in which companies like GameStop skyrocketed in value despite performances that were mediocre at best. Friedman said Nasdaq is “concerned” whenever “stocks move away from their fundamentals,” but that the Securities and Exchange Commission is working to ensure “it’s truly people being spontaneously interested together and taking a position on a stock” (versus illegally manipulating the market).

Friedman says at least nine cryptocurrency markets use Nasdaq’s surveillance technology that spots fraud or manipulation. Still, “crypto trading technology today is just not in a position to be able to support the level of trading activity that we experience in the equities and options markets,” she says. In the coming years, “there will be a greater understanding of how we can make the markets more efficient and effective using the blockchain.” For now, Nasdaq is focused on further developing that technology so it can “be a disrupter” itself.

Emma also quizzed Friedman on the Nasdaq’s new initiative that would require listed companies to disclose the diversity characteristics of their board members and to have at least one woman or underrepresented minority as a director. If a company doesn’t meet that minimum, it must explain why.

Friedman says Nasdaq took this step due to a “growing amount of evidence that diversity on boards is correlated with improved outcomes in two areas: risk controls—that’s important to us because investor protection is critical—and financial performance.”

Bloomberg reported yesterday that the SEC is likely to approve the proposal as soon as Aug. 8. The endorsement would mark one of the agency’s most substantial efforts yet to increase diversity among those who oversee public companies.

Still, the proposal has gotten some pushback during the public comment period, but Friedman says it was expected: “Whenever you try to create change, you’re going to have debate.”

You can read Emma’s full interview here.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post misspelled GameStop.

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

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PARTING WORDS

"Who has time for shame right now? ... I guess we have all the time in the world, but why waste the time that we’re stuck with?"

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