Race and sex discrimination, pay disparities, and equal employment opportunities for minorities and women in the finance industry will be among the topics addressed during U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearings later this month in New York City.

The hearings, set for Sept. 19 through Sept. 21, are part of the commission's multiyear, nationwide investigation of the resurgence of racial and ethnic tensions in the United States.

Hearings on Sept. 21 will focus on economic opportunities and access to capital for minorities in the finance industry, according to a heating agenda released by the commission Friday. Earlier sessions will deal with racial and ethnic tensions in New York City and immigrants in the labor force.

At least one hearing participant, Alphonso E. Tindall Jr., has said he will address how the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board's recently enacted curb on political contributions may do harm to minority and women municipal securities professionals.

Tindall, a lawyer, is chairman of the National Association of Securities Professionals, a group representing minority and women securities professionals.

Another lawyer, Jeffrey L. Liddle, also is scheduled to speak. Liddle is managing parmer of Liddle, Robinson & Shoemaker, a New York law firm that specializes in employment law and litigation. The firm represents securities professionals in lawsuits and arbitration claims charging race, sex, and age discrimination against Kidder, Peabody & Co. and other Wall Street firms.

"The commission was "pretty shocked at the total under-representation of minorities and women" in the finance industry, Liddle said, referring to preliminary testimony he gave to commission members on the issue.

Liddle said he also plans to discuss firms' "ineptitude in recognizing these problems and handling them."

In addition, Denise Santana, career program director for Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, said she has provided the commission with information on how her organization works to increase the number of minorities in the industry.

The organization sponsors summer internships for minority undergraduates at major firms in "elite" industries such as investment banking, asset management, corporate law, management consulting, and accounting, Santana said.

"It has come to our attention that there are difficulties with retention," Santana said. "The higher up they are the more obstacles there are.

"Let's be honest, discrimination exists everywhere," Santana said. "Because the remuneration is so high, it's not as if Wall Street is very generously going to open up its arms and share the goodies."

Although the commission has no enforcement authority, its findings have been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts. Its findings and recommendations also have influenced executive orders and led to new legislation or changes in existing legislation.

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