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CEO Daily: Monday, August 17

August 17, 2015, 10:56 AM UTC

If you, like me, were at the beach yesterday, you may have missed the social media cyclone stirred up by the New York Times’ page one epic depicting Amazon as some sort of high-paid, high-tech sweatshop. When you have time, the story is worth a read. But if you don’t have time, the ex-employee quoted just below the banner – a spot normally reserved for headlines about World War III and such – provided the gist: “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

Former GE CEO Jack Welch, who recognized some of his own management tactics in the story, went on Twitter to call it “unrealistic” and “biased,” adding a hashtag: “#meritocracy/winning.” Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreesen said he’s “talked with hundreds of Amazon vets” over the last two decades and “not one didn’t think it’s a good place to work.” Ex-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said the story “has ‘taken out of context’ stamped all over it.”


I won’t dispute the Times’ reporting. It’s clear why Amazon doesn’t make Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. But in a note to employees yesterday, Amazon chief Bezos made the point that kept going through my mind as I read the story: “The people we hire are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want…Anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay.”



The furor brought to mind a truly great piece of journalism written at the dawn of the tech age – Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of A New Machine – that captured a fundamental truth about humanity. We will make huge sacrifices, endure inconceivable hardships and work unimaginably hard, if we feel we are making an important contribution to a cause we believe in. Nap pods not required.




More news below.



Alan Murray

Top News

 Could China cause a global recession?

An op-ed from The Wall Street Journal points out that over the past 50 years, there has been a global recession once every eight years on average. With the last one occurring in 2008, a new recession could be brewing. All signs point to China as the origin, unlike past recessions that were often linked to problems in the U.S. – the world's largest economy. But WSJ points to this key problematic stat: no emerging nation in recorded history has ever added debt at the pace China has since 2008.  WSJ (subscription required)

 A setback for 'Abenomics'

Japan's economy shrank in the second quarter as exports slumped and consumers cut back on spending, new data that implies there will be more pressure on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to help lift the economy out of decades of deflation. Not only will the data likely force Japan to cut its forecast of a 1.5% economic expansion for the current fiscal year, but weak consumption could also discourage the central bank from pursuing expanded stimulus measures.  Reuters

 Samsung phones disappoint investors

New phones that were unveiled by Samsung Electronics last week were not well received by investors, which sent shares in the tech company down to a 10-month low in Seoul. Samsung debuted two new phones as it tries to battle with Apple and some Chinese providers in the cutthroat smartphone industry. Some observers were disappointed. "We should now admit that new smartphones are no longer a thing that can reverse the profit decline [at Samsung]," said one analyst.  Bloomberg

AT&T helped government spy

There are reports that indicate telecom giant AT&T provided "extensive assistance" to the U.S. National Security Agency as it conducted surveillance on huge volumes of Internet traffic passing through the United States. The company reportedly helped the spy agency in a broad range of classified activities, including the installation of surveillance equipment at far more Internet hubs than Verizon Communications, according to documents that were dated from 2003 to 2013 and provided to the New York Times by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.  Reuters

Around the Water Cooler

Toyota makes off-roading simpler 

With the re-entry of General Motors into the midsize pickup truck segment, Toyota needs the new Tacoma to be a hit. The 2016 Tacoma is an updated model after a ten-year run – offering a high tech system of computerized sensors and controls that weren't previously featured in the truck. "Crawl control" apply brakes and gas automatically to each wheel, so drivers only need to steer. This makes going off road even easier for drivers. Fortune

 High wages hurting Australia

Australia's economy, facing its weakest stretch of growth since a recession in 1991 and unemployment matching an almost 13-year high, is hampered by a rigid labor market, Bloomberg argues. Part of the problem are so-called penalty rates that doubles wages for Sunday shifts for many service sector jobs. But after the last bid to overhaul the labor market brought down former Prime Minister John Howard, some don't expect the current government will take up the issue.  Bloomberg

Craft brewers becoming distillers too

Some of the biggest names in the craft beer world – including Rogue and Dogfish head – are also establishing their own spirits divisions that have recently shown signs of being more than just a side project. The craft beer movement is far more established in the U.S. than the sibling effort in spirits, though there are indications that small spirits brands are making waves too. Dogfish is placing a bigger bet on the trend: the company is planning to expand distribution as it indicates plans to produce more spirits at the company's production brewery.  Fortune

5 things to watch for this week

Walmart, Fed minutes, and Greece — 5 things to watch for this week. This week's story can be found here.