Russian Cyberattack, Dreamer Impasse, Brexit and Finance: CEO Daily for February 16, 2018
It’s Friday, so a bit of feedback. One of my favorite CEO Daily readers, who has spent some serious time on the issue, cautions me against going “overboard on the corporation-as-savior-and-enlightened-citizen theme.” He writes:
“Having worked on Wall Street for a long time and served on four big corporate boards, I’m really skeptical that most companies will live up to your admirable aspirations. Some will, but most won’t. When the going gets tough, when markets aren’t good, taxes despicably low, etc., you’ll be very disappointed at corporate behavior. In the end governments must step up to define the public interest and create the framework for it, and it’s a dangerous illusion to think corporations can remotely substitute for our elected officials.
He adds: “You are placing a lot of weight on pressure from millennials. We, of the sixties, were idealistic too, no?”
I consider myself duly warned…but also plan to keep encouraging the trend. If I lack cynicism about business’s ability to address social problems, it’s partly because I have no such lack when it comes to government.
Separately, yesterday’s post about the 100 Best Companies to Work For failed to mention Andrew Nusca’s fascinating piece about No. 84 on that list—Activision Blizzard—where arriving to work each day is like stepping into a video game and one of the most coveted jobs is called “Loremaster.” You can read it here.
More news below. And apologies yesterday for saying Salesforce contributes 1% of earnings to charity. It’s actually 1% of equity.
Both the U.S. and the U.K. now believe that Russia was behind last year’s devastating “NotPetya” malware attack, which scrambled data on computers around the world, causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage. The White House indicated that the attack was part of an attempt to destabilize the Ukraine, and warned of “international consequences.” CNET
Two opposing immigration proposals—one from President Donald Trump; one bipartisan—failed to get through the Senate yesterday, as did two other amendments on the subject. Senators might now try to attach a short-term fix to a spending proposal, in order to provide some protections for “Dreamers,” who are young, undocumented immigrants. Wall Street Journal
Brexit Financial Rules
The U.K. is set to propose that it and the EU mutually recognize one another’s regulatory and supervisory financial regimes after the Brexit inflection point. The proposal reportedly sees the two systems being aligned when the country leaves the bloc, with divergence being monitored by some new mechanism. Bank of England governor Mark Carney apparently likes the plan. Financial Times
The Securities and Exchange Commission has blocked a Chinese-led consortium from buying the venerable Chicago Stock Exchange. The regulator highlighted the lack of sufficient information about the investors, including details about how some of them are funded. The deal had been held up by regulatory concerns for two years. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
Former Trump aide Steve Bannon was questioned for 20 hours this week by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team (over two days, in case you’re wondering). He reportedly answered every question put to him by the investigators, who are probing Russia’s role in the 2016 election. The House intelligence committee was less successful at getting Bannon to play ball with every question. Associated Press
German Sea Change
Germany’s center-left Social Democrats (the SPD) have collapsed in voter-intention polling to just 16%—a mere percentage point above the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and just two points above the Greens, who recently boosted their appeal by electing centrist leaders. This may help guide the looming decision of the SPD’s membership as to whether they should join another “grand coalition” with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. If they don’t, that almost certainly means fresh elections. Deutsche Welle
Social Purpose Debate
Sally C. Smith, the president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, argues against Blackrock CEO Larry Fink’s call for companies to inject a “social purpose” into their business practices. In an opinion piece for Fortune, she writes: “The most ‘positive contribution’ companies can make to society—that is, to the millions of ordinary people who have invested their savings in them—is to maximize profits.” Fortune
A transgender woman in the U.S. has been able to breastfeed her partner’s baby following a treatment that included the nausea drug domperidone (to trigger the breastmilk) and increasing doses of the hormones oestrogen, progesterone and spironolactone. This is the first such success story to be recorded in medical literature. New Scientist