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CEO Daily: Friday, 19th May

Good morning.

Lots of spirited feedback on yesterday’s post on Uber’s Travis Kalanick, and whether it’s necessary to be an a**hole to change the world. One ag-tech CEO responded:

“That drives me crazy when people say this. Assholes get headlines because controversy gets headlines. But there are thousands of CEOs who don’t often create controversy. Are the Google founders assholes? Was the MySpace founder an asshole?”

He the cited my favorite nice-guy CEO of all-times: “What about Alan Mulally, who turned around Ford before and during the Great Recession?”


Also, this from M.L.:

“No. You absolutely don’t need to be an a**hole to change the world. Saw a founder present yesterday at Techonomy who is transforming the construction industry. (Tracy Young, founder of PlanGrid.) Her approach? Help them, not disrupt them.”


J.R. wrote in:

“Various research supports other anecdotal stories of a good culture leading to consistent growth and innovation. Having an environment where people feel psychological safety; which is enhanced through a task orientation climate; leads to greater personal growth, greater creativity, greater collaboration, and greater motivation.

“Additionally, tapping into an individual’s core values enables greater autonomy, self-satisfaction, problem solving, and creativity and this is more effectively done through getting to know employees and working with them individually. ”


And this from R.O.:

“Maybe not an asshole, but Uber encourages an approach that breaks laws, rules and regulations and is getting away with it…Granted some of the laws, rules and regulations regarding taxi services may be protective to the industry vs. consumers, but not all. Further, if you don’t like the laws, people are expected to use the government process for changes.”


If you haven’t read Adam Lashinsky’s fascinating piece on Kalanick, I suggest you do so now, here.

I’m heading to D.C. this morning, where the President seems increasingly out of synch with his own administration, as well as with a growing number of Republicans in Congress. He’s said since inauguration that his goal is to “drain the swamp,” but some think he’s sinking in it instead. Both health care and tax reform will suffer as a result.

More news below. Enjoy the weekend.

Alan Murray

Top News

Trump Decries “Witch Hunt”

President Donald Trump denied pressuring James Comey to drop an investigation into his first National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, shortly before firing the FBI Director. Trump described the news flow of the last week as a “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Earlier, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly told the Senate that he had been aware of the President’s intention to fire Comey even before he wrote the letter on which Trump subsequently said he had based his decision (an explanation that the President repeated Thursday). Fortune

Roger Ailes, Divisive in Death as in Life

Roger Ailes, the founder and former chairman of Fox News, died aged 77. In death, as in life, he divided public opinion sharply, some celebrating his breaking of a stifling consensus on mainstream television, others reviling him for coarsening public debate and for the revelations about his personal life that ended his career. “Let all his victims now be ungagged for the true, full reckoning of his life,” Lisa Bloom, an attorney representing some of former Fox employees who have alleged sexual harassment, said via Twitter. It’s not clear what will now happen to the investigations into how Fox managed the financial aspects of harassment-related settlements. The only thing that people will never disagree about is how wildly he succeeded in his ambitions while still in his prime. Fortune

Mnuchin Backs Down From ‘21st Century Glass-Steagall’

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee that the administration doesn’t support splitting up investment and commercial banks, in comments that appear to end speculation over the possible revival of a “21st century Glass-Steagall Act.” Mnuchin said he thought a forced separation would be “a very significant problem for financial markets and the economy.” His comments acknowledge that the bewildering pace of innovation in finance, and the boundless creativity of Wall Street’s legal whizzes, make it near-impossible to nail down by law the separation of specific activities. Mnuchin appeared instead to back the approach implicit in post-crisis regulation, i.e., accept the fact of large and complex banking groups, but subject them to tighter prudential standards to tackle the risks they pose. Reuters

FCC Begins the End of Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 on Thursday to begin the process of revoking its 2015 net neutrality rules. Under the proposal, the agency would eliminate the legal underpinnings of the rules, which prohibit Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking, slowing or otherwise discriminating against web sites like Google’s YouTube or online services like Netflix. The agency will take comments for 90 days, and then typically needs another three to six months to move ahead with a final rule. That means the issue of net neutrality is likely to figure prominently in the 2018 midterm campaigns. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

Real Big Trouble

Brazil’s currency, the real, fell 8% against the dollar to a five-month low, while trading was suspended on the country’s stock market, as the Supreme Court authorized the opening of a criminal inquiry into corruption allegations against President Michel Temer. Temer’s plans for cutting the budget deficit had triggered a virtuous circle of capital flows that allowed the central bank to cut interest rates by 3 percentage points over the last year, but even that hasn’t been enough to restore growth to an economy that has shrunk for the last eight quarters. With the central bank now under pressure to defend the currency, the prospects for a return to growth in Latin America’s biggest economy are getting pushed back yet again. Fortune

Iran’s Rouhani Looks for Voter Endorsement of Nuclear Deal

Iranians vote Friday for a new President, in an election where the incumbent Hassan Rouhani is facing a strong challenge from a hard-line opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, who accuses him of making too many concessions to the West in return for the lifting of sanctions. Raisi’s chances have been bolstered by the fact that the economic improvements that Rouhani promised would follow the end of sanctions have been slow to trickle down to ordinary people. The vote coincides, quite by chance, with President Trump’s first foreign trip in his official capacity, featuring stops in both Saudi Arabia and Israel. Time

Waymo Wants a Waiver, and Uber Is Obliging

How can 5th Amendment rights be upheld if a judge orders your employer to fire you for invoking them? That’s the latest twist in the ongoing legal battle between Alphabet’s self-driving venture Waymo and Uber over trade secrets allegedly stolen by Anthony Levandowski. Levandowski has repeatedly invoked his right to avoid self-incrimination and refused to hand over some 14,000 files to Waymo. District judge William Alsup has ruled Uber must do everything in its power to return the files, up to and including firing Levandowski if he refuses to cooperate. The engineer’s lawyers argued Thursday that the order violates decades of court precedent.  WSJ, subscription required

Zuck Will Take You Out to the Ball Game

Facebook has struck a deal with Major League Baseball to show 20 of the league’s games live this season in an agreement that expands the social media network further into the world of live programming. Facebook said it will stream one game a week beginning on Friday, and the broadcasts would be available to everyone on Facebook in the U.S.. You can’t help but wonder whether anyone will protest when it refuses to take down graphic video footage of the Cubs slaughtering the Reds. Fortune

Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; @geoffreytsmith