The World's Most Powerful Women: August 31

By Claire Zillman
August 31, 2016

In the past, WMPW has documented European competition czar Margrethe Vestager’s repeated tiffs with U.S. multi-nationals—Google, Amazon, Starbucks, McDonald’s—which she’s targeted for antitrust violations or for benefiting from plum tax deals. She took on arguably her biggest opponent yet yesterday when the European Commission hit Apple with a record-breaking tax bill of $14.5 billion after determining that Ireland had granted the company illegal state aid for many years, giving it an unfair advantage over its rivals.

Vestager’s past enforcement against U.S. companies has stoked hostile relations across the Atlantic as U.S. officials have accused her of unfairly targeting American companies. She received similar criticism on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury said that “retroactive tax assessments by the Commission are unfair, contrary to well-established legal principles, and call into question the tax rules of individual member states.” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote a letter to “the Apple community in Europe,” detailing the company’s contributions to Ireland and denying that Apple received special treatment. Even the potential beneficiary of the billions in back taxes had harsh words for the ruling: Ireland’s finance minister Michael Noonan plans to challenge the decision as a way to “defend the integrity of our tax system” (and its attractive 12.5% headline rate of corporate income tax—the lowest in the EU).

Vestager—who, as deputy prime minister of Denmark, received the nickname “Sultry Vestager” for her response to a male opponent’s criticism that her economic stimulus plan was “small”—responded to the backlash with her trademark cool and fierce adherence to what’s fair. “Not one rule has changed,” she said. “It is a question of paying unpaid taxes.” She even threw in a joke: “If my tax rate went down from .05% to .005%, I should have felt maybe I should have had a second look at my tax bill.”

Claire Zillman

@clairezillman

Editor’s note: I am taking over for Laura Cohn as author of WMPW starting today. Please send me your tips and ideas with the links above and look for Laura’s byline on Fortune stories about women in business.


EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA



More of the same
In the latest round of secret balloting to determine the next United Nations Secretary-General, former Portuguese PM Antonio Guterres came out on top. Hopes are fading that the UN could finally get its first female leader. Of the five women candidates, UNESCO director general Irina Bokova of Bulgaria fared the best, coming in third.
Reuters


THE AMERICAS



The ‘town square’ of retail
In a blockbuster 2014 poach, Apple hired Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to be its retail chief. In this piece, Ahrendts talks to Fortune‘s Don Reisinger about her latest effort to remake Apple stores into destinations for far more than gadgetry.
Fortune
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The landslide bring you down
Wall Street is predicting that Hillary Clinton will win the U.S. election in November by a wide margin, and that poses a problem for the economy. Investors are so dead set on a Clinton presidency that a narrowing of her poll numbers—let alone a surprise Donald Trump triumph—could rattle global markets.
Fortune

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Managing crises of all sizes
Sloane Menkes, a former U.S. Air Force first lieutenant and PricewaterhouseCoopers’ global crisis center leader, tells Fast Company what rebuilding homes destroyed in the Nepalese earthquake taught her about managing crises at work.
Fast Company
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Motto


ASIA-PACIFIC


Independent in India
Travel warnings be damned. Despite a notice from the Indian tourism minister that women tourists should “avoid skirts and (not) go out alone at night” after violent attacks against women in the country, female travelers—including Indian women themselves—are touring the country solo.
Quartz

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Selling the sari
With more than $100 million in annual revenue from its 29 Indian stores, sari seller Nalli is a bonafide success story. But as Indian fashion tastes shift toward Western wear—think H&M and The Gap—32-year-old Lavanya Nalli, who attended Harvard Business School and used to work for McKinsey, is trying to reinvent her family’s business.
BBC


IN BRIEF


Why everyone’s talking about talking to women wearing headphones
Washington Post


TV personality and chef Carla Hall is total badass—culinarily and otherwise
Eater


Burkini, meet facekini: This is what women around the world wear to the beach
Washington Post


5 things we learned from Stephanie Hannon, Hillary Clinton’s campaign CTO
Fortune


Theresa May rejects an early U.K. election and a do-over Brexit vote
Financial Times

 


PARTING WORDS

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, female is not a genre.
—British singer Kate Nash, on seeing a Females Of All Description category at a record store

 

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