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Tax Rules, Apple Results, Brexit Fantasies: CEO Daily for January 30, 2019

Good morning.

Should Howard Schultz run for president as an independent? I’ve been stunned by the backlash this idea has gotten in the last three days. Everyone seems to be against it—not just liberals who fear he will be a “spoiler,” but also conservatives who dislike the leftward tilt of his centrism. Hecklers are haunting his book tour. Journalist Peter Goodman tweeted: “If there is a single person on planet earth who thinks Howard Schultz running for President is wonderful, they are keeping it well hidden.”

So let me step forward: I think it’s a good idea. Why? Not because running a string of coffee houses prepares you any better for the presidency than, say, building condominium complexes. And not because Schultz’s approach to solving our nation’s growing social divide (Talk to your barista!) is any more effective than President Trump’s (Close the borders!).

No, I think it’s a good idea because someone needs to challenge the two-party stranglehold on American politics. America’s biggest business competitiveness problem is its broken political system. As Harvard business professor Michael Porter and Katherine Gehl argued in this piece in Fortune, the two parties act like a classic duopoly, serving their own needs but not those of the country.

Could he become a spoiler, as Ross Perot was in 1992? That’s a question that doesn’t have to be confronted until post-Labor Day 2020. In the meantime, having an articulate businessperson making the case for a centrist political movement can only be a good thing. Businesspeople like to fix problems—problems that don’t seem to concern most politicians these days.

Moreover, there are signs that the country is—if not ready for it—moving in this direction. Nearly 40% of Americans identify as Independent, and while most of them consistently vote with one party or the other, their rejection of a party label is telling. Another encouraging data point: in the last election, voters in three states—Colorado, Michigan and Missouri—passed ballot measures to end partisan redistricting.

So my message to Schultz—or for that matter, anyone else considering an Independent run—is: go for it. A GOP wise man once told me that politics is a lot like golf—it generally works best if you stay near the center of the fairway. Today, most of the players are in the rough.

News below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

Tax Rules

The OECD says there’s a growing likelihood of new global tax rules being agreed next year, in order to make sure digital giants (and other multinationals) pay their fair share. The key issue will be determining where the companies get taxed—right now it’s generally about where their headquarters or assets are, but the idea is to levy tax where sales and services are delivered. A U.S.-led plan would “limit the opportunities for companies to shift profits from high to low tax jurisdictions.” Financial Times

Apple Results

Apple’s iPhone sales fell 15% last quarter. Revenues and profits were down, but its services and wearables businesses are growing, so CEO Tim Cook felt able to say the results “demonstrate that the underlying strength of our business runs deep and wide.” Bloomberg

Apple Suit

The FaceTime eavesdropping bug has earned Apple a lawsuit from a lawyer who claims someone was able to listen in on a client conversation. He wants punitive damages for Apple’s alleged negligence, product liability, misrepresentation and breach of warranty. Fortune

Brexit Fantasies

The U.K. Parliament voted last night that: a) a no-deal Brexit is not an option; and b) the Irish backstop must be removed from the (final) withdrawal agreement that Prime Minister Theresa May struck with the EU. May supported that second amendment, by the way. So now she will spend the next fortnight trying to convince her EU counterparts to reopen negotiations, which they refuse to do, while skidding toward a no-deal Brexit that cannot actually be taken off the table unless Brexit is cancelled, because it is otherwise the default outcome. Guardian

Around the Water Cooler

Ghosn Claim

Ousted Nissan/Mitsubishi/Renault chief Carlos Ghosn has done his first interview since his November arrest. He claims the variety of financial impropriety allegations that he faces are actually “plot and treason” against him, perpetrated by Nissan executives who wanted to stop him from integrating the trinity of automakers. BBC

Maduro Claim

Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro claims Donald Trump ordered Colombia’s government to kill him, but he’s still open to talking with the U.S. president. However, he won’t call an early election, as many European countries have been asking him to. Reuters

Facebook Research

Facebook has had to remove an app from Apple’s iOS platform that monitors almost all of the user’s phone and web activity, in exchange for a $20 monthly gift card. That level of access is not OK under Apple’s terms. But it’s fine on Android, apparently. The Verge

Santander Results

Banco Santander’s annual profit rose 18% last year, largely thanks to its performance in the U.S, Brazil and Spain. CEO Ana Botin: “We are extremely proud of what we have achieved these three years, because we have … delivered growth, very few European banks delivered growth.” CNBC

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