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New Zealand Terror, SEC vs VW, Google Fine: CEO Daily for March 15, 2019

Good morning.

I’d give Boeing a C- for its sluggish response to the Ethiopian Airlines crisis. It was late to ground its planes, despite disturbing evidence of similarities between this and the earlier Lion Air crash. And the public still hasn’t heard directly from CEO Dennis Muilenburg. What’s he hiding from? The New York Times has the latest disturbing report on the crash here.

A better grade goes to TPG, which moved quickly to oust Bill McGlashan after his involvement in the college admissions scandal, and made crystal clear the dismissal was for “cause.” The investment firm also said investors in its new social impact fund could withdraw if they wished.

As for Facebook, I’m still not sure what to make of its crisis-caused “pivot to privacy.” The departure of chief product officer Chris Cox, who was one of the first 15 engineers to join the company, is a clear sign that big changes are afoot. But anyone who has watched Facebook for the last 15 years knows it was Zuckerberg himself, not any of his lieutenants, who was driving the anti-privacy stance.

Meanwhile, Apple continues to make the most of Facebook’s woes. It has put out a humorous new ad showing people seeking privacy in their daily lives, with a tag line: “If privacy matters in your life, it should matter to the phone your life is on.”

Since it is Friday, some feedback. Boeing took a pounding from CEO Daily readers:

“What a sad commentary from what has historically been a great company.”


“Muilenburg is really laying an egg on his approach to this crisis!”


And Elizabeth Warren’s #BreakUpBigTech campaign found at least one defender:

“Should we really use a legalistic argument about the antitrust laws being about consumer harm? They were written in 1890, not a time to be well equipped to understand how markets would look like 130 years down the road. Then, the economy was about material goods. Today, the consumer herself has become the product. My data are traded and marketed. That was not the case in 1890. Food for thought, no?”


More news below.

Alan Murray

Top News

New Zealand Terror

At least 49 people have been killed in what seems to have been a white supremacist terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Four people have been arrested. One of the gunmen reportedly livestreamed his attack on Facebook, which has since taken down the video. Bombs were attached to a car but police disarmed them. Washington Post

SEC vs. VW

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has alleged in a lawsuit that Volkswagen lied to investors by issuing bonds and securities when executives knew half a million of the company’s U.S. cars were pumping out diesel emissions that heavily crossed legal limits. SEC: “By concealing the emissions scheme, Volkswagen reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in benefit by issuing the securities at more attractive rates for the company.” CNBC

Google Fine

The Financial Times reports Google is about to be whacked with a third mega-fine by the European Commission, this time over the way it allegedly restricted how websites using its search box could display search ads from rival providers. Google is currently appealing the previous two fines, which totaled $7.7 billion and related to its stifling of rival comparison-shopping services in search, and of rival phone-software firms in the Android ecosystem. Financial Times

Tesla Model Y

Tesla will next fall start selling an electric crossover SUV called the Model Y. It will start at $39,000 once the cheapest model comes out in Spring 2021—three pricier variants will precede it. Given the increasing popularity of SUVs over sedans, in the U.S. at least, Elon Musk thinks the Model Y will sell twice as many units as the slightly cheaper Model 3. NBC

Around the Water Cooler

China Law

China has approved a new law that is supposed to level the playing field for foreign investors, by giving them better market access and making sure commercial information and trade secrets are better protected by the authorities. The American Chamber of Commerce says there’s not enough detail in there, though, and sectors such as fishing, gene research and news media remain closed to any foreign investment. South China Morning Post

Spying Question

China’s premier, Li Keqiang, has maintained that China never asks its companies to spy on its behalf, and pledged that it will not do so. The pledge came in answer to a question at a Friday news conference on U.S.-Chinese competition. The promise is debatable, though, given China’s National Intelligence Law, which does say companies must help the authorities carry out intelligence work. Wall Street Journal

School Strikes

Schoolchildren around the world are striking today, in protest against government inaction on climate change. “As youths who will inherit the land, we gather here to demand that the government work with us to solve these problems,” said one Thai teenager, Thiti Usanakul. The strike movement was begun last August by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. Reuters

Mark Karpeles

Mark Karpeles, the former CEO of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox, has been acquitted of most of the charges he faced in Japan, such as embezzlement and aggravated breach of trust. The Tokyo District Court found him guilty only of falsifying data—he falsely inflated Mt. Gox’s holdings—for which he got a suspended sentence. CNN

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