Can CEOs lead on social issues? Kaiser’s Bernard Tyson was in the office yesterday, to talk about how technology is revolutionizing health care. But we got sidetracked on the extraordinary essay he wrote for Linkedin last December, post-Ferguson, in which he said that “even as a CEO, the black male experience is my reality.” It’s well worth reading, here.
Tyson is one of several CEOs making waves on social issues lately. Howard Schultz’s effort to inject Starbucks into the race conversation misfired, but he still plans to do more. Tim Cook (Apple), Marc Benioff (Salesforce) and Doug McMillon (Walmart) all played key roles in the backlash against “religious freedom laws” in Indiana and Arkansas.
Why? There was a time when boards preferred their CEOs to lay low on controversial issues that weren’t directly relevant to the bottom line. But author and consultant Dov Seidman, who visited Fortune Monday, says the world is changing. We live at a time when formal power is on the decline (add Moises Naim’s book “The End of Power” to your reading list). As a result, CEOs need moral authority to be effective. Expect the trend to continue.
Enjoy the day. And if you are finding Fortune CEO Daily useful, please recommend it to others who may as well.
• Salesforce may be on the block
With a market capitalization of more than $47 billion, a deal for cloud software giant Salesforce won’t come cheap. No names have been floated as rumors swirl the company has hired financial advisors to potentially find a buyer. Fortune speculates Microsoft is a “feel-good favorite.” The companies have a good working relationship and both have literally thousands of business partners. Another logical suspect? Oracle. Fortune
• Banks push back on foreign bribery probe
Wall Street banks are in dispute with the U.S. government over interpretation of foreign-bribery laws that the finance industry is calling “aggressive.” This tidbit was buried a bit in the WSJ story but we found it particularly fascinating: the outcome of the dispute between the banks and the government have implications for many U.S. companies with overseas operations. Essentially, banks say the U.S. is threatening to criminalize standard business practices in some countries, and the industry is worried that any outcome from the probe could be used as a blueprint for future cases. WSJ (subscription required)
• The latest twist in a long-running Greek tragedy
Greece, facing a cash crunch as early as next week, has reportedly agreed to meet with euro-area officials to pursue a preliminary deal by May 3. The aim would be for finance ministers to sign off on the accord by their next scheduled meeting on May 11, officials told Bloomberg. With Greece running out of time to reach a deal in time for debt payments next month, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded ratings on the country’s government bonds further into junk. Bloomberg
• Time is ticking for Apple Watch production
The latest tech gadget might take a little longer to land on your doorstep. It is being reported that a key component of the Apple Watch was found to be defective, resulting in Apple limiting the availability of the flashy new product. Apple isn’t planning a recall, as there is no indication customers got watches were the defective part. The gadget is important to Apple as it is the company’s first all-new category of hardware since the iPad in 2010. Apple is counting on Watch to show it can be as innovative as it was under former CEO Steve Jobs. WSJ (subscription required)
Around the Water Cooler
• Tech firm’s head no longer in the clouds
Microsoft — known in the tech world for locked up prized products — is angling to add more customers to its Azure cloud by courting coders who want flexibility. The software giant is now bragging about how many of its products can be used on other companies platforms. One example? A business whose developers are making applications for Apple’s iOS and Android can now easily tweak them for Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 operating system. Fortune
• A clean bill of health for U.S. healthcare
Bernard Tyson, chairman and chief executive of Kaiser Permanente — the $56 billion non-profit health insurer and hospital operator — says he’s more optimistic about America’s healthcare system than he’s ever been. One important point Tyson makes: healthcare today is a “fix-me system” that swoops in to assist patients when repair is needed. That’s expensive, so by changing the incentive structure, medical professionals can be rewarded for guiding people into making behavioral choices that are likelier to keep them well. Fortune
• Secret’s out. But you can still Whisper
Anonymous message sharing app Secret entered the tech scene with a lot of buzz early last year and was at one point valued at $100 million. That isn’t close to Fortune “Unicorn” status, but it is certainly a lot of VC funding for an app that didn’t pass muster when Fortune tested it last summer. Well, the word is out: Secret is shuttering. That’s good news for competitor Whisper, which has its own troubles but scored a victory by merely signaling that it’s still alive. Fortune
• This animal’s pay is nothing to whinny about
Tapit is expected to generate over $30 million in 2015. That may sound like excessive executive pay, but Tapit is just a white mare with a total estimated value of about $120 million. The horse’s stud fee is fully double that of any other racehorse in the U.S., with demand really taking off the past few years. How can the stallion’s owners generate so much from the stallion? Well his offspring have had breakout performances, including a win at the Belmont Stakes last year by Tonalist. Bloomberg
• Starbucks still selling California water in face of drought
Coffee giant Starbucks is generating media headlines for continuing to sell water that partly relies on two water sources in California that are experiencing “exceptional drought” conditions. Starbucks got into the water business in a big way when it bought Ethos Water, which donates a nickel of every $1.95 bottle sold to water charity projects. Fortune
Fortune’s 5 things to know today
The dollar’s pullback and Time Warner Cable — 5 things to know today. Today’s story can be found here.