Microsoft Probe, Intuit Change, Trump Organization: CEO Daily for August 24, 2018
It’s not news that big businesses oppose the Trump administration’s clamp down on immigration. But it is news—and a sign of growing frustration—that they decided to go public with their criticism yesterday. The Business Roundtable released a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, signed by a Who’s Who of Fortune 500 CEOs, complaining that changing immigration policies “are causing considerable anxiety for many thousands of our employees while threatening to disrupt company operations.”
I talked yesterday with Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, who heads the BRT immigration effort, and asked him: why now? “We are beginning to see changes in policy decisions and in behavior of how decisions are being implemented…and at the same time, we are also facing effectively full employment,” he said. The result is a squeeze on talent at the moment companies most need it to grow. “It’s a huge problem,” Robbins said. “We are educating students at our phenomenal universities, but they feel as though they have to go back to their home countries and create companies that compete with us.”
It’s not clear if the business lament will have any effect, especially at a time when Republicans are counting on Trump’s immigration policies and rhetoric to motivate Republican voters to go to the polls in November. But the argument needs to be heard. The talent agenda should include both aggressive training programs and smart immigration policies.
Since it’s Friday, some feedback. LM writes: “Perhaps, it is my parochial school education, but I was taught to follow a salutation, such as ‘Good morning’ with an exclamation point. The period you use lets me down.” I don’t recall any such rule from my Strunk and White. But in LM’s honor, I’ll give it a try.
More news below, including Geoff Colvin’s interview with Brad Smith, who is stepping down after 11 years at the helm of Intuit.
Brad Smith made the surprise announcement yesterday that he is stepping down as CEO of business software firm Intuit after 11 years in the role. He told Fortune‘s Geoff Colvin why: “I wanted to step down when I was still in my learning zone and still had gas in the tank.” Smith’s replacement will be Sasan Goodarzi, who heads up the company’s small business unit. Fortune
The Justice Department and SEC are reportedly investigating Microsoft over potential bribery and corruption in the way the company sold business software to resellers in Hungary, which sold the software on to government agencies. According to The Wall Street Journal, investigators are looking into the possibility that Microsoft’s reseller partners paid bribes and kickbacks to government officials. WSJ
New York State prosecutors may be preparing to probe the president’s business. Bloomberg reports that New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has begun the process of opening a criminal investigation into the activities of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., is looking at the possibility of criminal charges against the Trump Organization. Both probes follow Cohen’s recent admission of crimes such as tax fraud and campaign finance violations. Bloomberg
Malcolm Turnbull is out as Australian prime minister, replaced by Treasurer Scott Morrison. Morrison is a former hardline immigration minister, and his ascent marks a lurch by the ruling Liberal Party further to the right. Remarkably, he will be Australia’s sixth prime minister in a decade—the country has a particularly mutinous political class. However, Morrison’s government has to call a general election by May. Given the Australian public’s exasperation with his party’s internal rivalries, he may not hang around for very long. BBC
Around the Water Cooler
Despite President Trump’s protestations, a top Federal Reserve official says he won’t influence the Fed’s interest rate policy. Esther George, president of the Fed’s Kansas City regional bank, indicated she was keen to see two more rate hikes this year. George: “Congress anticipated this kind of tension when they designed the central bank, and they put firewalls in place so that the central bank can be independent and carry forward with its decision making.” CBS
Apple and Tesla
Apple has been tempting dozens of employees away from Tesla in the last year, and not only for the company’s “Project Titan” car scheme—Apple also seems to be trying to tighten up its manufacturing processes. Tesla told CNBC that the data used for its piece did not reflect an unusual number of people leaving Elon Musk’s firm. CNBC
The Financial Times‘ James Kynge reckons the U.S. will be unable to stop China achieving dominance in the tech world. He writes: “Can China really live without America? The answer supplied by financial markets appears to be ‘no’…but over the longer term, China looks likely to prevail…It may be able to de-risk its supply chain by reducing reliance on U.S. imports, notwithstanding difficulties in key areas such as semiconductors.” Financial Times
Silicon Valley on Drugs
Kara Swisher has written a piece for The New York Times on Silicon Valley and the drugs that its top executives take, “less to let off steam or lose your inhibitions than to improve your mind.” We’re mostly talking psychedelics here, such as LSD, magic mushrooms and ayahuasca—weed and Ecstasy are apparently for after work. The execs believe the psychedelics help them “hack” their brains, making them “super lucid” so they can gain an edge over their competitors. NYT