Episode 2: Elizabeth Muscarella, Carlyle

Ontra Senior Managing Director of Sales Randi Lynn Veenstra and Elizabeth Muscarella, a principal in Legal & Compliance at Carlyle and the chief legal & compliance officer of Metropolitan Real Estate, took a walk with Winnie, Randi Lynn’s goldendoodle. They discussed how Carlyle has taken a leading role in Environmental, Social, and Governance reporting and what others can learn from Carlyle’s approach.

Video Transcript

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:01):

I’m Randi Lynn Veenstra, and I’m a senior managing director at Ontra. Winnie and I are going to meet with my old friend Liz Muscarella from Carlyle. Come join us. It’ll be fun. 

Liz, how are you?

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:19):

Hi, I’m doing well.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:20):

Good, good to see you. 

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:22):

How are you?

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:23):

Good, it’s been too long.

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:24):

Yeah, it’s been a really long time.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:25):

I know, I know. Lots have changed. This is Winnie.

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:27):

Yeah, I can see.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:28):

We’ll start with Winnie.

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:29):

Sure. Hi, Winnie. Let’s start with you.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:33):

And we’ll start with this. 

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:34):

Congratulations.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:35):

Thank you very much. I’m not totally prepared, but I’m, like, semi-prepared. 

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:39):

You will be.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:40):

Yeah, we’ll get there.

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:41):

I think it’s one of the reasons I became a lawyer, actually. 

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:44):

Really? 

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:44):

Yeah. 

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:45):

What were they chatting about? 

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:46):

So, my dad’s — the brother’s side of the family — most of them or all of them are either in insurance or law. 

Randi Lynn Veenstra (00:52):

Okay.

Elizabeth Muscarella (00:54):

So it would be a group of men talking like brothers. They have that dynamic going along, but also talking about each other’s cases, talking about each other’s clients. I didn’t know names, anonymous basis, everything was on the up and up. But one of my uncles, usually one in insurance, would tell a story of some gruesome thing that happened, and then they would all debate it. 

They probably were doing this for much longer than I remember. But what was great for me about it was just hearing how the legal minds thought about something versus insurance, which was a lot more commercial minds. 

Randi Lynn Veenstra (01:32):

Oh yeah.

Elizabeth Muscarella (01:33):

So they would have these debates that were very much like seeing it from both sides of the spectrum. And I would listen in, and I do think that that kind of conversation about how people talked about law, how they thought about problems and liability and negligence and all of that was one of the reasons I became a lawyer.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (01:49):

I have a picture in my mind right now of 7-year-old Liz being like, “What is negligence?”

Elizabeth Muscarella (01:53):

Really?

Randi Lynn Veenstra (01:54):

It’s your first torts course. 

Elizabeth Muscarella (01:55):

Yeah, I think it was. 

So I’m the in-house counsel for ESG, which I really like it. And it’s definitely somewhere where I’m getting those eureka moments. Including now, because it’s a new field and a new field to me. So I’m learning things all the time and connecting the dots for how certain issues and certain questions flow through everything that we do. And I’m going on the public company level, funds level, and portfolio level.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (02:23):

I was going to say that, right? Because the eureka moment is the puzzle of bringing all of the pieces together. There’s so many different pieces when it comes to that.

Elizabeth Muscarella (02:31):

There are. And it’s moving all the time, which makes it difficult right now. But challenging and being out on the forefront is great. 

One of the things that Carlyle has done — in just about a year ago — is we got together with some of LPs and some other GPs, and we spearheaded this group that is called the ESG Data Conversions Project. 

The idea there is just to get a start. Let’s start on having a set of unified data that we’re all trying to report on. And we all on the GP side, every everyone who signed up, is doing reporting on an anonymous basis for our portfolio companies and then using centralized data and creating a benchmark. 

And I do think the important thing is we got started, and we are finding some connections. We are finding those eureka moments. But we are currently have been starting with really six data points that we’re getting reporting on. That was the first year. Six categories, few different data points. Then the idea is as this grows and as we get more sophisticated and we learn what people want, we learn what we can measure, we’ll add in new data points every year. 

For now, we’ve got the six, and our first year has just concluded. And we’re actually starting to see some interesting data come out. 

Randi Lynn Veenstra (03:54):

Oh, that’s amazing. 

Elizabeth Muscarella (03:55):

Yeah.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (03:56):

There’s your eureka moment.

Elizabeth Muscarella (03:56):

There’s your eureka moment.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (03:57):

There’s your eureka moment.

Elizabeth Muscarella (03:58):

A eureka moment that goes both ways. We have eureka moments that start to validate some of the theses we’ve had, some of the opinions we’ve had. For example, about women sitting on boards that have more profit, the companies having a more profitable growth. And then some that are actually very surprising. 

But still eureka moments in the PE world. One of those being that it seems that private companies are actually creating jobs faster than public companies, which is against the whole narrative of private equity. And definitely a eureka moment that our team seized on and thought, you know, was a real way of contributing on the ESG front.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (04:40):

Well, the narrative that’s been placed on private equity. Yeah, that’s great.

Elizabeth Muscarella (04:43):

It’s a win-win, right? We’re breaking down the narratives, and we’re also creating jobs. 

Randi Lynn Veenstra (04:49):

So aside from what I’ll call the explosion of ESG as a topic, is there another reason why Carlyle wanted this role to be expanded?

Elizabeth Muscarella (04:58):

I think explosion is actually a great way to think about it and a great way to talk about it. And that plays into this. But the explosion is across kind of all sorts of areas, right? It’s LPs. It’s the broader market. It’s regulators. There’s a lot going on on the regulation side. That’s another one of the reasons that Carlyle thought it was good to have some in-house expertise, and I’m serving as that role.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (05:25):

That’s great. You’re at the forefront, which is wonderful. 

All right, so last one for you. I’m going to make it a biggie. Kidding — don’t get nervous. In terms of the biggest takeaway, if someone listened to the last 20 seconds here, what would you want them to take away from the video?

Elizabeth Muscarella (05:42):

I’m not sure it’s something we totally touched on, actually. I think what I would want people to take away from sort of the conversation we’re having, and an example, is the data convergence project, right? 

We shouldn’t be letting perfection get in the way of good here. And so we need to just get started on some things and start to build out the expertise and the kind of market approach to some of these. But let’s get together in a room. Let’s have people who care about this, LPs and GPs, all talk about it and figure out what we can do to start and then build from there.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (06:16):

I love it. One of my mantras that I live by. Perfection is the enemy of good.

Elizabeth Muscarella (06:20):

Perfection is the enemy of good. I don’t know about enemy…

Randi Lynn Veenstra (06:23):

Maybe too far.

Elizabeth Muscarella (06:24):

It could be an obstacle.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (06:27):

That’s great. Liz, it’s been too long. Thank you so much for meeting. It was great to see you. 

Elizabeth Muscarella (06:31):

Very good to see you.

Randi Lynn Veenstra (06:31):

All right, we’ll talk soon. 

Elizabeth Muscarella (06:33):

I hope so.

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