- Despite Florida’s Republican officials publicly opposing diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) principles, state agencies have engaged in multiple contracts with Mercer, a consulting group known for its alignment with DEI and ESG initiatives.
- Mercer has been involved in at least 64 contracts with various state agencies over the past decade, providing consulting, actuarial, and governmental relations services.
- Even under Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration, Mercer was granted a $1 million no-bid contract with the Department of Children and Families for a financial plan supporting at-risk children, despite the state’s strong opposition to “woke culture” and progressive ideologies.
- Mercer’s involvement in state affairs extends beyond consulting, as they were also employed in conducting an executive compensation analysis for the interim president of New College of Florida, leading to a significant increase in the hiree’s salary compared to the previous president.
Despite persistent “anti-woke” messaging espoused by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and many of Florida’s most powerful Republican elected officials, the state agencies under their control have engaged in dozens of contracts with Mercer, a consulting group that is aligned with diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) initiatives and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) principles.
Mercer, despite its affinity for DEI and ESG principles, it turns out, is firmly woven into the very fabric of Florida’s state government, and nobody in state government wants to acknowledge it. Several state agencies, including the Department of Health (DoH), the Department of Management Services (DMS), and the Department of Chidren and Families (DCF) have entered into at least 64 contracts with Mercer for consulting, actuarial, and governmental relations services across the past decade.
Documents provided to The Capitolist reveal that under DeSantis’ administration, Mercer was recently granted a $1 million no-bid contract with the Department of Children and Families to create a financial plan supporting a statewide network of assistance for at-risk children. The document states that the no-bid contract was issued in December 2021.
In recent years, state officials like DeSantis and Patronis have both taken on a strong-armed approach – rhetorically, at least (“Florida is where woke goes to die…“) – against DEI and ESG philosophies, culminating in legislation barring the use of such ideologies in governmental fiduciary and educational practices.
The pair have been vocal critics of what they view as “woke culture” and progressive ideologies, particularly in corporate and educational settings. That focus can be seen in the state’s divestment of $2 billion — the largest of its kind by any state — in assets under management by BlackRock in response to its adherence to ESG investing strategies.
“Florida will continue to lead the nation against big banks and corporate activists who’ve colluded to inject woke ideology into the global marketplace, regardless of the financial interests of beneficiaries,” said DeSantis in May.
Mercer and its parent company Marsh McLennan aren’t in the crosshairs, however. Both are public-facing regarding their adoption of DEI and ESG standards, with the latter claiming it has used ESG strategies since 2008.
“ESG is fundamental to our identity and the way we show up for our clients and the communities we impact,” states Marsh McLennan’s website. “We have formally integrated environmental, social, and governance factors into our decision-making processes since 2008, and believe that transparent and consistent disclosure enables better-informed business and investment decisions.”
Mercer, meanwhile, presents its self-described company values as inclusion and diversity, social impact, and sustainability, directly standing antagonistic to recent legislation and public statements delivered by the state’s most powerful figureheads.
“Organizations should embed a holistic DEI approach into all business processes,” says Mercer. “This approach should include not only internal strategies but also external ones — working with stakeholders such as consumers, suppliers, governments, and communities — to encompass the business imperative of creating a more open, diverse, and inclusive society.”
But the DeSantis Administration isn’t the first to bring Mercer in as a consultant. On May 17, 2017, under Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, Mercer was contracted by the state for $9 million to provide a fiscal evaluation of a Department of Health (DOH) Children’s Medical Services Managed Care Plan. The contract initially had a termination date of June 30, 2020. However, under DeSantis, DOH twice extended the contract, first through June 30, 2023, and then again through September 30, 2023.
Under that contract, the state has paid Mercer, at minimum, $853,000 per Fiscal Year since 2017, with total payouts reaching as high as $1.6 million under DeSanits’ time in office. Payments have been registered as recently as June, when the DoH paid Mercer $107,854.
Another contract worth $441,470 was initiated on March 23, 2023 to conduct a performance and compliance audit of the state Pharmacy Benefit Manager, Preferred Provider Organization, and Health Maintenance Organization plans. The contract ended on June 30, with the most recent documented payment taking place on April 27.
Other recent agreements include a $339,780 contract entered into by DCF on February 3, 2023 for actuarial audits and a $275,000 actuarial services order authorized by the DoH on January 26, 2023. Worth noting is that a majority of the 64 contracts were initiated before DeSantis took office in 2018, dating as far back as 2010.
Both the Executive Office of the Governor and the Office of the state Chief Financial Officer told The Capitolist the matter was being looked into, but no further information was provided.
Notably, Mercer was also involved in the search for New College of Florida’s interim president to conduct an executive compensation analysis underpinning the salary for the school’s new interim president. According to university documentation, DeSantis-appointed Chair of the Search Committee Matthew Spalding selected Mercer to conduct the analysis.
In its study, Mercer examined 13 institutions similar to New College to compare the salaries of their presidents and presented its findings to the university’s presidential search committee. Based on Mercer’s findings, it was recommended that the base salary range be set between $487,110 and $867,777, with a total compensation package between $893,641 and $1,547,324.
The eventual hiree, former state Board of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, was granted a salary of $699,000 annually, alongside $84,000 in housing allowance. The Tampa Bay Times further reported that Corcoran’s contract included a $12,000 automobile stipend and an annual retirement supplement of $104,850.
The salary figure marked a $400,000 dollar increase over New College’s previous president, Pam Okker, who was ousted following DeSantis’ appointment of six conservative-leaning Trustees to the university’s board.
For comparison, Ben Sasse, the former U.S. Senator now serving as the University of Florida’s President, earns a salary of $1 million per year. New College did not respond to inquiries regarding Mercer’s contract.