By Ryan Derousseau
December 7, 2015

The coming week’s theme seems to be high-profile, high-pressure, high-stakes leadership. Specifically:

On Wednesday the Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on the wave of mammoth drug price increases that has swept through the past several months. This is guaranteed bad news for, among others, CEOs J. Michael Pearson of Valeant and Martin Shkreli of Turing, formerly CEO of Retrophin. Both have pursued a strategy of buying the rights to existing pharmaceuticals and multiplying the price; Turing, for example, in August bought the rights to a 50-year-old anti-parasite pill and raised the price from $13.50 to $750 a tablet. The leadership issue is whether any of these CEOs will finally step up and take a role in the larger debate about how drug makers get paid for what they sell and whether government should regulate prices, subsidize drug purchases, both, or neither.

Also on Wednesday, Volkswagen’s board will meet. I detailed VW’s worsening crisis last week and won’t repeat the details. In the few days since, it’s striking how the bad news has just kept coming. VW sales, having fallen 25% in the U.S. in November, are reported down 20% in the U.K. and down 2% even in the company’s home market, Germany, where overall car sales rose 9%. The big question for outside observers is to what extent the directors support CEO Matthias Müller, who replaced Martin Winterkorn soon after the emissions scandal broke in September, and whether they believe yet another CEO replacement is necessary to retrieve this expanding disaster.

Mauricio Macri will be sworn in as president of Argentina on Thursday. It’s likely to be the best day of his administration. He surprisingly defeated ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli last month and now must begin implementing his promised policies of opening the economy and cutting government deficits – necessary to revive the stagnant economy but certain to cause pain before they pay off. It’s a challenge that many leaders face in tough times.

The U.S. Congress has until the end of the day Friday to pass a $1.1-trillion federal spending bill in order to keep the government running. It’s the biggest test yet for new House Speaker Paul Ryan, who got the job in October when former Speaker John Boehner resigned in similar circumstances. Boehner quit rather than lead a rejection of a spending bill and force a government shutdown, as demanded by the Republicans’ most conservative faction. Ryan is committed to passing the bill on time (he may even be able to negotiate another week of wiggle room), but this isn’t a done deal. Like many leaders, he holds only limited authority over those he leads – a type of leadership that’s growing in importance across fields.

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