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CEO Daily: Monday, 21st November


Good morning.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting look at conflicting views among Trump’s economic advisers. Some of them are traditional GOP economists, eager to cut taxes and regulation in order to increase incentives for private growth. But those free-market folk aren’t keen to slap tariffs on Chinese or Mexican imports, as Trump has threatened, nor are they on board for big government infrastructure spending. “It’s the supply-siders versus the zero-sum crowd,” says investment strategist Andy Laperriere. Unclear how that will sort out.

But the smartest take of the weekend came from 93-year-old Henry Kissinger, who met with Trump on Thursday and appeared on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show yesterday.

“This President-elect is the most unique that I have experienced in one respect,” Kissinger said. “No baggage. He has no obligation to any particular group because he has become president on the basis of his own strategy and a program he put before the American public that his competitors did not present.”

Zakaria responded that Mr. Trump does indeed arrive with baggage – referring to various inflammatory comments during the election. But Kissinger’s point was that Trump has no policy baggage. His views on economic policy, like his views on foreign policy, are very much his own, and haven’t been put through the hardening that comes with actual implementation. Moreover, they don’t fit within the traditional dogma of either party. (The Washington Post‘s Dan Balz this weekend labeled him “America’s first independent president.”) That gives him immense flexibility in the days and months ahead.

Mr. Kissinger’s advice: give Trump plenty of room to find the right path. “One should not insist on nailing him into positions that he had taken in the campaign on which he doesn’t insist,” Kissinger said. “I think we should give him an opportunity to develop the positive objectives that he may have…We’ve gone through too many decades of tearing incumbent administrations apart, and it may happen again, but we shouldn’t begin that way.”

More news below.

Alan Murray

Top News

Anthem Heads to Court to Defend Cigna Deal

Health insurer Anthem will meet the Justice Department in court today as Monday marks the start of the trial in which Anthem will defend its proposed $48 billion purchase of rival Cigna. The U.S. government sued to block the deal in July under the argument that the merger would stifle competition in an industry that has seen an uptick in consolidation recently. The DOJ has ramped up its antitrust enforcement efforts of late, with a particular eye on the health insurance industry. The government has also sued to block Aetna’s proposed $34 billion combination with Humana, with the court battle over that deal set to kick off in early-December. If Anthem’s deal for Cigna goes through, it would create the country’s largest health insurer, however both companies have previously accused the other of breaching the merger agreement. The Wall Street Journal, subscription required

• Germany’s Merkel Will Seek a Fourth Term

Angela Merkel said on Sunday that she will try to win a fourth term as Germany’s chancellor in a 2017 election. Merkel has faced backlash from voters over her open-door immigration policy, but her continued presence as Germany’s leader would lend some stability to a global political stage that has been rocked by populist upsets, namely, Donald Trump’s election victory in the U.S. and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. The Washington Post wrote on Monday about how, while Merkel is technically a conservative, she has moved to the left during her time in power, calling her the “leader of the liberal, free world.”  The Washington Post

• Symantec will Acquire LifeLock for $2.3 Billion

Looking to bolster its computer security software business, tech company Symantec said over the weekend that it will pay $2.3 billion to acquire identity theft protection services company LifeLock. Symantec makes the Norton brand of cybersecurity software, which is often sold along with personal computers, and the company’s revenue has suffered from the overall decline in PC sales. An increased focus on identity security follows another large Symantec acquisition: an August deal to buy cybersecurity company Blue Coat for $4.65 billion. That deal also resulted in former Blue Coat CEO Greg Clark taking over the top role at Symantec after that deal closed.  Reuters

• Walmart Looks for a Leg Up in Online Holiday Sales Battle 

Cyber Monday is now “Cyber Week.” Walmart announced plans to move up its post-Black Friday online deals by an additional day this year, as the world’s largest retailer attempts to better compete online with e-commerce giant Amazon. A year after moving Cyber Monday deals up one day to the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Walmart will begin its Cyber Week deals shortly after midnight on Black Friday this week. That will follow Black Friday sales that will be available online and in stores starting on Thanksgiving Day. Walmart has been looking to boost sales online, expanding its online offerings after purchasing smaller rival for $3 billion and putting that company’s founder in charge of its e-commerce business. So far, so good, as the company said last week that global e-commerce sales jumped more than 20% in the third quarter. Fortune


Around the Water Cooler

• South Korea’s Opposition Parties Move to Impeach President

South Korea’s opposition parties are considering various impeachment measures against President Park Geun-hye, whose administration has come under fire as part of an escalating corruption scandal. The country’s opposition People’s Party is starting to gather signatures to launch an impeachment motion, while the Democratic Party is reviewing conditions for impeachment. The moves come after a close friend of the president, as well as a former presidential aide, have both been charged with abusing their power by pressuring companies to make large donations to foundations to which they had ties.  BBC

• Pence Says Romney Under “Serious Consideration” for Secretary of State

Vice-President elect Mike Pence confirmed during a Fox News interview on Sunday morning that Mitt Romney is under “active and serious consideration” for the role of Secretary of State in Donald Trump’s impending administration. Romney met with both Trump and Pence in New Jersey on Saturday, fueling speculation that the former Massachusetts Governor and GOP presidential candidate could be in line for a top position in Trump’s Cabinet despite the fact that Romney and Trump bashed one another before the election. The meeting came as Trump boasted that he is meeting with some “really, really talented” people and that his transition process is going smoothly. Trump is also reportedly considering retired Marine General James Mattis to be his defense secretary. WSJ, subscription required

• The Life-Span of a Fake News Story

The New York Times took an interesting look at the “fake news” phenomenon this weekend with a case study that tracked one particular conspiracy theory back to its dubious source. The particular story, about paid protesters receiving transportation to demonstrations against president-elect Donald Trump in Texas, originated with a later-deleted Tweet that was retweeted thousands of times despite being debunked. Fortune has written extensively about how fake news stories rapidly spread misinformation on social media and, on Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg even announced several new initiatives to decrease the number of fake and misleading news stories that get shared on the platform.   The New York Times

• Self-Driving Cars Will Soon Arrive in Boston

NuTonomy, a self-driving car startup based in Cambridge, Mass., said on Monday that it will start testing its vehicles on the streets of Boston by the end of the year. The company ran tests earlier this year in Singapore, where it plans to roll out a commercial fleet of self-driving cars by 2018. That timeline puts nuTonomy ahead of other companies working on autonomous driving technology, including Uber and Google-parent Alphabet. The decision to test the vehicles in Boston comes after that city said it will work with a World Economic Forum transportation program looking at the policies around self-driving cars. Fortune