Skip to Content

Fed Board, Ma Reversal, Coinbase Claim: CEO Daily for September 20, 2018

Good morning.

The stock market may be hitting highs, but CFOs are losing optimism. That’s the message from Deloitte’s “CFO Signals”—a comprehensive quarterly survey of top financial officers. The percentage of U.S. CFOs rating conditions as “good” dropped from a record high of 94% in the second quarter to 89% in the third quarter. European CFO optimism dropped from 47% to 32%, and Chinese CFO optimism fell from 55% to 37%. Top concerns? Geopolitical risk, trade friction, and interest rates.

Sanford Cockrell, who runs Deloitte’s CFO practice, said that despite the dip, the survey “still represents strong assessments relative to survey averages over the last eight years.” You can read the full report here.

Separately, a CEO Daily reader asked why I didn’t highlight Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advertisement as an expression of corporate values. As readers know, I have previously cited comments from the CEOs of Levi-Strauss and Delta on guns, the CEO of Merck on the president’s reaction to the Charlottesville riots, and the CEO of Salesforce on Indiana and North Carolina gay and transgender rights laws, among others, as examples of a dramatic change in the nature of corporate leadership.

But in the Nike case, it wasn’t clear to me the ad was a statement of corporate values, rather than simply a marketing calculation as to what will sell Nike products. I still can’t speak for the company’s intent. But a report yesterday suggests that it did, indeed, sell more stuff. According to data from Thomson Reuters, the company has sold 61% more merchandise since it started running the controversial ad campaign, which features the former NFL player who took a knee during the national anthem.

Good for Nike’s bottom line. But that shouldn’t be confused with CEOs speaking out on social issues that don’t directly impact their bottom line, but do reflect their values.

New below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

Fed Board

President Trump will nominate Nellie Liang to the board of the Federal Reserve. Liang is a former Fed economist, having set up the central bank’s Division of Financial Stability in 2010, after the crash. These days she’s a senior fellow at the Brooking Institution and visiting scholar at the IMF’s monetary and capital markets department. Reuters

Ma Reversal

Alibaba founder Jack Ma says the company will no longer create a million jobs in the U.S., due to the continuation of the trade war with China. Ma promised the job creations to President Trump at the start of 2017, but said yesterday that “the current situation has already destroyed the original premise.” The original premise was, to be fair, always somewhat dubious. Fortune

Coinbase Claim

The New York Attorney General released a report on cryptocurrency markets, with one interesting claim being that one fifth of the trading volume on Coinbase is attributable to Coinbase itself. “Such high levels of proprietary trading raise serious questions about the risks customers face on those platforms,” the attorney general said. Now Coinbase has hit back with a denial that it engages in proprietary trading. Chief policy officer Mike Lempres: “In order to provide an easy-to-use customer experience, Coinbase Consumer quotes a price and then quickly fills the order from our exchange platform (Coinbase Markets).” CNBC

Equifax Fine

The credit-rating giant Equifax will be fined $659,300 by the British privacy regulator, the Information Commissioner, over its failure to protect the personal data of millions of people in the U.K. Around 15 million Britons’ data was caught up in the massive breach of Equifax’s systems last year. The regulator, which investigated the breach alongside the Financial Conduct Authority, said the Department of Homeland Security had warned Equifax about the vulnerability in its systems. The fine would have been higher under the new EU General Data Protection Regulation, which only came into effect this May. BBC

Around the Water Cooler

Danske Saga

Some shareholders at Danske Bank are deeply dissatisfied with the largest Danish bank’s investigation into its massive money-laundering scandal, saying it was not conducted by an impartial party. The investigation cleared senior management of breaching their legal obligations, despite the fact that there had been many warnings over the money-laundering taking place through Danske’s Estonian operations. Financial Times

Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin will launch people in space next year, the Amazon CEO said yesterday. It’s not clear whether this just means a manned mission, or whether passengers are involved. Earlier this year, Bezos talked about taking paying customers up from 2020—though Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith was originally talking about that happening this year. Fortune

Obesity and Insurance

HuffPost has a fascinating long read about obesity in the U.S. that makes many good points (make food more nutritious, food industry), but a couple in particular, about health insurance, stand out. High-weight patients demonstrably benefit from “intensive, multicomponent behavioral counseling,” but as far as insurance companies and state healthcare programs are concerned, a session or two is sufficient. Also, insurance providers often require physicians to bring up a patient’s weight no matter why the patient has come for treatment, which does not help matters. HuffPost

Maternal Deaths

Senator Tammy Duckworth writes for Fortune that it is infuriating to see a rising rate in the U.S. of women dying from pregnancy-related complications, despite the fact that three-fifths of those deaths are preventable. She points to a successful program in California that has seen training drills and checklists more than halve the state’s maternal death rate, and calls on Congress to ensure such programs are rolled out to other states. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.