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The Moral Imperative of Leadership: CEO Daily, Monday 21st August

August 21, 2017, 10:58 AM UTC

Good morning.

The New York Times this weekend discovered CEOs have a moral voice. In a piece on the front of the Sunday business section, David Gelles quotes from last week’s statements by Mary Barra, Jamie Dimon, and Ken Frazier as well as Marc Benioff and Howard Schultz, and cites “notable and new kinds of pressure from within—from employees who expect or encourage their company to stake out positions on numerous controversial social or economic causes, and from board members concerned with reputational issues.”

The upshot: “While companies are naturally designed to be moneymaking enterprises, they are adapting to meet new social and political expectations in sometimes startling ways.”

This was the topic we discussed with the roughly 100 CEOs who attended last year’s FORTUNE + TIME Global Forum at the Vatican, which opened with a discussion of “The Moral Imperative of Modern Leadership.”

“In rapid order, the world has not just changed, I think it has dramatically been reshaped. It operates differently,” Dov Seidman told the December gathering. “And I think it has been reshaped faster than we have reshaped ourselves, our institutions, our businesses and our leadership.” For a number of reasons—socially conscious millennials being one, the closeness created by social media another, and the failure of political leadership a third—the pressure on CEOs to assume positions of moral leadership has become intense. (You can watch last year’s discussion here.)

We will be continuing that discussion in New York on September 25, with the launch of The CEO Initiative, focusing on efforts companies are making to address social problems as a core part of their strategy. As my friend Alan Fleischmann told the Times: “For a long time, corporate social responsibility was a buzzword marketing tool, walled off within an organization. Now, it has to be central for the CEO, part of their everyday responsibility and leadership.”

Among the CEOs joining us in September: J.P. Morgan’s Dimon, Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi, Monsanto’s Hugh Grant, Hyatt’s Mark Hoplamazian, Allstate’s Tom Wilson, Siemens’ Joe Kaeser, and Mastercard’s Ajay Banga. You can find the full list of participants, and more information, here.

News below.

Alan Murray


Top News


Sempra Energy Reaches $9.45 Billion Oncor Deal, Topping Berkshire Bid

Sempra Energy has reportedly reached an agreement to acquire Oncor for $9.45 billion after upping a previous offer of $9.3 billion for the power-transmission company. The agreement represents a blow to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which had its own deal in place last month to buy Oncor from the company's bankrupt parent, Energy Future Holdings Inc., before Sempra swooped in with a more valuable offer. Wall Street Journal, subscription required

And, Another Big Energy Deal

French oil giant Total SA is buying the oil unit of Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk for $4.95 billion, with Total also set to assume $2.5 billion in debt from the Danish conglomerate. The deal represents the latest sign of an uptick in deal activity from an industry that has been slumping in recent years amid low oil prices.   WSJ, subscription required

China Expresses 'Strong Dissatisfaction' Over U.S. Probe

China has expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" with the launch of an investigation into China's alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property, which the Trump Administration announced last week. China's Commerce Ministry called the move "irresponsible" in a statement. The probe is the first direct action the administration has taken against China's trade practices, following up on a frequent talking point of Trump's campaign. Reuters

China's Great Wall Eyes Fiat Chrysler for Deal Talks

Great Wall Motor Co, China’s biggest SUV maker, says it is interested in acquiring Fiat Chrysler, which includes the classic Jeep brand of SUVs. The news follows recent reports that Great Wall had requested a meeting with the Italian-American automaker to discuss the possibility of buying some or all of the company. Fortune


Around the Water Cooler

Google and ProPublica Team Up to Track Hate Crimes with A.I.

The journalism nonprofit ProPublica partnered with Google's News Lab to create a new tool, called the Documenting Hate News Index, that aims to shed more light on the prevalence of crimes motivated by hate in the U.S. by collecting news reports on hate incidents in a searchable database. Fortune

More Mar-a-Lago Cancellations After Trump's Charlottesville Comments

The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society and senior care group MorseLife are the latest organizations to cancel events they had planned to hold at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida amid the fallout from the president's controversial comments in the aftermath of last week's violence in Charlottesville, Va.   Fortune

Russian Twitter Bots Pushed for McMaster Firing 

According to a former FBI Special Agent, Russian-controlled Twitter bots helped amplify widespread calls for President Trump to fire National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster earlier this month, when the hashtag #firemcmaster went viral on social media. Fortune


Summaries by Tom Huddleston Jr.