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CEO Daily: Tuesday, March 1

Good Super Tuesday. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will take giant steps toward their respective nominations in voting today. Their opponents are clinging to the faint hope that victories in their home states – Cruz in Texas and Sanders in Vermont today, Rubio in Florida and Kasich in Ohio on March 15 – can somehow catapult their candidacies to viability. Not likely. Rubio’s Trump-like schoolyard insults – small hands, orange skin, bad hair, wet pants – have had little apparent effect on his poll numbers.


The New York Times this morning takes a first look at Clinton’s general election campaign strategy against Trump, and finds the race is not quite the romp that many – including Republican strategists – are predicting. Trump’s appeal to the disaffected could play well in key general election states like Ohio and North Carolina. Clear losers in the race: anyone who favors freer trade and more open immigration.


At FORTUNE this morning, we are releasing Brian O’Keefe’s investigation into the so-far unsuccessful efforts of “big chocolate” – Hershey, Mars, Nestlé – to address child labor problem in the West African countries that grow most of their cocoa. Some two million children are still engaged in dangerous cocoa farming activities in the Ivory Coast and Ghana – a number that appears to have grown over the last half decade. The story is a case study in how even the best of corporate intentions to address serious social problems can be foiled by harsh realities on the ground. It’s a fascinating read; you can find it here.


More news below.


Alan Murray

Top News

Judge sides with Apple over DoJ

A federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, rejected a U.S. Justice Department request to order Apple to help law enforcement access data on a locked iPhone, in a ruling that bolsters the company’s arguments in a growing privacy fight with the government. The government sought access to the phone in October, months before a judge in California ordered Apple to give the government access to a phone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, California, attacks. For the case in the New York court, the Justice Department said it was “disappointed” with the ruling and planned to ask a higher judge within the same federal district to review the matter in coming days. Reuters

SEC is investigating Valeant

The Valeant Pharmaceuticals negative media cycle continued for yet another day, as the company said it is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, news that sent shares sharply lower on Monday. The drug maker didn’t disclose the subject of the SEC’s interest, but Bloomberg reports it is unrelated to an existing probe by the SEC into the company’s purchase of Salix Pharmaceuticals last year. The news also came the same day that CEO Michael Pearson returned from a two-month medical leave. Fortune

Trump, Clinton hold Super Tuesday leads

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton head into today in dominant positions that could help both of them win their party nominations and set up a match-up for the White House this fall between the New Yorkers. Roughly a quarter of the nation votes today, by far the biggest day so far in the 2016 election cycle. Trump and Clinton have each won three of four earlier contests, with the former still facing a crowded field of five candidates while the latter is up against Senator Bernie Sanders. The real-estate businessman is leading in the polls virtually everywhere on Super Tuesday except Texas, while a strong Clinton showing could make it almost mathematically impossible for Sanders to catch up. Bloomberg

Yahoo’s Tumblr boondoggle

Yahoo warned it may need to write down the goodwill value of Tumblr, more than two years after the Internet company spent $1.1 billion to buy the microblogging site. Yahoo said earlier in the month it took a $230 million impairment related to Tumblr and was considering strategic alternatives for its core Internet business. The deal for Tumblr was seen as a bold bet by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to revitalize the company but co-opting an online property with strong visitor traffic but little revenue. Reuters

Around the Water Cooler

Has Buffett blundered on IBM?

No investor is perfect – and that includes the Oracle of Omaha. Famed investor Warren Buffett on Monday said that it was possible he erred when he bought shares of IBM for his insurance and investment conglomerate. But he isn’t willing to concede defeat yet. While Buffett has taken a lot of heat from observers over his big bet on Big Blue, his company Berkshire Hathaway actually added to its position in IBM last year. Buffett told CNBC he hasn’t sold a share of the stock, even as the tech giant’s shares have faced some woes. Buffett has said that ultimately, the company expects IBM’s stock will recover and “ultimately exceed our cost.” Fortune

Icahn posts worst loss since 2008

Activist investor Carl Icahn posted his worst investment losses since the financial crisis, reporting his hedge fund lost 18% last year as investments in companies like Chesapeake Energy were stung by slumping energy prices. Icahn’s loss for 2015 follows a decline of 7.4% in 2014, also due to weak energy prices. “2015 was a challenging year to say the least,” Keith Cozza, chief executive officer of Icahn Enterprises. Since its founding in 2004, Icahn’s hedge fund, which also shorts stocks, has returned 171%, or 9% annualized, the company said. USA Today

Waste in cancer drugs costs billions

A group of cancer researchers have reported that federal Medicare program and private health insurers waste nearly $3 billion every year buying cancer medicines that are thrown out because the drugs are distributed in vials that hold too much for most patients. The expensive drugs are usually injected by nurses who carefully measure the amount needed for a patient and then, because of safety concerns, discard the excess quantities. In the U.S., drug makers mostly sell a one-size-fits-all vial, while in Europe, smaller vial sizes are available to cut down on waste. A co-author of the study said: “If we’re ever going to start saving money in health care, this is an obvious place to cut.” New York Times (subscription required)