Dow Chemical’s CEO is taking the Warren Buffett way out.
On Tuesday, at Fortune‘s Brainstorm-E conference, the chemical company’s top executive Andrew Liveris was asked who he thought would be a better president for his company and, by extension, the economy. Liveris’ answer: It’s doesn’t really matter.
In general, Liveris said that the economy would do fine either way. Buffett essentially said the same thing last month when he was asked a similar question at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting.
The difference is that Buffett, a known Democrat, has vocally supported Hillary Clinton, saying she would be better for the country, even if it made little difference to Berkshire.
Liveris, on the other hand, seemed to be saying that it didn’t make any difference because of the gridlock in Washington. In other words, no matter who becomes president, little will get done. “The balancing act of the Constitution,” says Liveris. “It works so the best case is optimism and the worst case is neutral.”
Liveris didn’t say whether he thought a Clinton presidency or a Trump one would be the best outcome in the current election. But the CEO, who has donated slightly more to Republicans than to Democrats in the past, did take the opportunity to bash President Obama. Liveris said that he “has to be optimistic” about the next president after making it through Obama’s administration. “We’ve gotten here after seven years of huge regulatory burden,” he said. “We’ve had regulatory burden like no other administration we have seen for decades.”
Since President Obama took office, shares of Dow Chemical (DOW) have risen 451%. Last year, Liveris was paid $22 million, up from $16 million in 2008, and he has made a total of just over $151 million since Obama became president. Last year, Liveris announced a deal to merge with DuPont (DD), combining two of the largest chemical companies in the world. Few believe the Obama administration will try to block the massive deal.
Liveris also touched on some other topics in his talk.
On the merger with DuPont: “The realization is that you can’t ramp up R&D in multiple marketplaces and get short-term returns. Total R&D spending will only go down because of duplicate R&D. But with time, it will incline. We at DuPont and Dow think we can scale by going narrower and deeper. And do both short and long cycle together. That’s our challenge.”
On going private: “If we could, you would scale with private capital. The 90 day cycle is ridiculous. So you’ve got to elongate your investment horizons, and private companies can do that. The problem with private companies is they haven’t been able to get access to capital, which is why you have public companies. There’s a balancing act there.”
On the value of nature: “Humanity has a policy failure. We don’t value water. We don’t value air. We don’t value forests. We don’t value land. We don’t value oceans. We don’t value anything that’s on this planet. We put regional dynamics in place, from councils to state jurisdictions to federal. And they try to administer a very complex pricing model. What we are doing at Dow is to try to use mathematical models so you can actually figure out the value of nature. At Dow sustainability is a business purpose.”