Amazon and GM, Ghosn Lawyers, Xi Meeting: CEO Daily for February 13, 2019
Good morning. David Meyer here, filling in for Alan from Berlin.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had a most illuminating grilling by journalist Kara Swisher yesterday, on his own platform, naturally.
Much of the interview’s newsworthiness came from Dorsey’s answers, which I’ll get to in a moment. But first it’s worth noting that many found the interview hard to follow, due to the limitations of Twitter’s current design—tweets were appearing out of order, and other users were confusing matters due to their ability to interject using the #karajack hashtag.
Why does this matter? Some of the most prominent conversations of our time take place on Twitter, for better or for worse, and bad things happen when context gets fuzzy. Will Dorsey improve this aspect of the platform? Well, he wants to, at least. “Definitely not easy to follow the conversation,” he said, later adding: “This whole experience is a problem statement for what we need to fix.”
Now, those answers. The real headline-grabber there was Dorsey’s response to Swisher’s question about whom he considers the “most exciting influential on Twitter” at the moment. “I like how @elonmusk uses Twitter,” Dorsey said. “He’s focused on solving existential problems and sharing his thinking openly. I respect that a lot, and all the ups and downs that come with it.”
Musk, lest we forget, used Twitter to a) falsely and repeatedly accuse someone of pedophilia, and b) make a false funding statement that ultimately got him booted as Tesla chair as part of an SEC settlement that also left his wallet $20 million lighter. I have no doubt that Dorsey respects Musk’s Twitter usage, which has brought Twitter a lot of attention, but it hasn’t necessarily been good for Musk.
And what of Twitter’s notorious abuse problem? Dorsey acknowledged it was a “huge fail” that Twitter puts “most of the burden on the victims of abuse.” Swisher pushed back, repeatedly asking things like: “WHAT are you changing? SPECIFICALLY.” Dorsey responded with a stream of waffle including this gem: “We action all we can against our policies.” (Reminder: he’s the CEO.)
Full marks to Dorsey for engaging with Swisher, the toughest of interviewers, in this fashion. But I’m not at all certain he came out of it well, and I’m less sure than ever that Twitter has the faintest idea of how to solve problems that it’s been facing for years.
Amazon and GM
Amazon and GM are reportedly considering an investment in electric pickup startup Rivian, with a deal maybe coming this month (though maybe not at all.) Tesla CEO Elon Musk has talked about perhaps releasing a pickup next, but Rivian is already planning to release the first electric pickup next year. Reuters
Carlos Ghosn has just shaken up his legal team, ahead of his trial on various financial misconduct charges. Motonari Otsuru and Masato Oshibuko submitted letters of resignation to the court today, giving no reason for their decision. However, Ghosn told the Wall Street Journal that it was his call and represents "the beginning of the process of not only establishing my innocence but also shedding light on the circumstances that led to my unjust detention." WSJ
China's President Xi Jinping is reportedly "scheduled to meet" with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday in Beijing. When China sent its top trade negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He, to Washington, Liu also got to talk to President Trump. Reciprocation from Xi would, if confirmed, be a positive sign. South China Morning Post
Santander has shocked the bond market by deciding not to repay a €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) capital bond early, as investors expected it to do. Such AT1 bonds never have to be repaid, technically speaking, but a "gentleman's agreement" says banks repay them as soon as possible. "When making call judgments we have an obligation to assess the economics and balance the interests of all investors," the bank told the Financial Times. "We will continue to monitor the market closely and will seek to exercise call options where we believe it is right to do so." FT
Around the Water Cooler
Eurozone industrial production fell in December for the second straight month, with the sharpest falls taking place in Ireland, Malta and the Netherlands. The December fall, at 0.9%, was worse than economists' predictions of 0.4%. Overall, economists predicted a 3.2% decline in industrial production for 2018—the reality was 4.2%. EuroNews
Gates on AOC
Bill Gates is not a fan of proposals, made by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to tax the super-rich 70% on their highest earnings. Gates' issue is that such a rate would "start to create tax dodging and disincentives, and an incentive to have the income show up in other countries and things." He would rather see more capital and estate taxes, so "we can be more progressive without really threatening income generation." Fortune
Amazon and Eero
Amazon's imminent purchase of Eero is freaking out many of the home Wi-Fi firm's customers, including Fortune's John Patrick Pullen: "Why should my personal data consumption be the business of the everything store?... Soon these devices will also send our information to Amazon’s home in Seattle, or more likely one of their many data centers." Eero claims it won't start tracking Internet activity post-acquisition. Fortune
Parker on Amazon
Facebook's first president Sean Parker sees Amazon as more of a privacy threat than Facebook is. "If you're having a conversation in front of an Alexa-enabled device, Amazon is not guaranteeing you any privacy," he said, noting that recordings "could potentially be used against you in a court of law or for other purposes." CNBC