Letters from readers: The toughest job, health-care futures and BlackRock’s sustainability promises

January 17, 2020, 11:02 AM UTC

This is the web version of CEO Daily. To get it delivered to your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning.

It’s Friday, so some feedback.

On our suggestion that new Boeing CEO David Calhoun may have the toughest job in America, JR writes:

“The toughest job is one in which someone struggles through misery doing repetitive tasks for low wages, in rough environments… The Boeing CEO job is undeniably a challenge, but it can be a great experience, too.”

On Blackrock CEO Larry Fink’s commitment to make sustainability core to the firm’s investment products, DD was skeptical:

“So considering the so-called climate change reassessment in the financial community, none of the captains of financial management will be buying homes with views of bays, sounds, gulfs, seas or oceans? I doubt that.”

But CV thought Fink was understating the situation:

“I believe the economic landscape and rationale for investing in sustainable energy and businesses is somewhat understated by the BlackRock CEO… We are indeed at a tipping point when fiduciary duty is synonymous with de-risking investment portfolios by divesting from fossil fuel companies.”

And finally, LHS had this to say about our Big Idea of creating a futures market for health care:

“Your big Idea seems nuts. I know of no one anywhere who thinks that futures markets stabilized commodities… If we have learned anything in the last dozen years it’s that more derivatives that permit more speculation don’t mean more safety and stability.”

Well, we aim to provoke debate! LHS, by the way, is former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who has given CEO Daily permission to use his name, and never shies from giving his opinion.

Finally, this nice note from EM, about Fortune’s decision to impose a paywall:

“I’m sure it was a tough decision re paywall, but surely it’s the only way forward in this media/noise landscape.”

More news below. I’m on my way to the World Economic Forum in Davos, where I’ll be reporting all next week.

Alan Murray


Microsoft pledge

Microsoft has promised to remove from the environment "all of the carbon" it has emitted during its 45-year history, by 2050. That's not just a carbon-neutral pledge—it's a carbon-negative pledge. Microsoft president Brad Smith: "When it comes to carbon, neutrality is not enough." Environmental campaigners are delighted. BBC

Trillion-dollar club

Alphabet has become the fourth U.S. firm to gain a valuation of $1 trillion, after Apple, Microsoft and (briefly) Amazon achieved the feat over the last year and a half. Alphabet's Thursday valuation came in the context of a rally for big tech stocks this month. Wall Street Journal

Digital tax

EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan said the coming days will be crucial in the race to reach an international agreement on the taxation of big-tech multinationals. If the efforts fail, the U.S. could move ahead with tariffs on France, over its implementation of a national tax on the local revenues of Google et al. As the EU sees trade as a collective issue, that would be a big deal for the whole bloc. Bloomberg

Equal pay

Citigroup has hiked the salaries of some of its female employees after recording a massive 27% disparity between the average pay of female workers and that of their male peers for 2019. The shortfall was 29% the previous year; Citigroup has also slightly improved the pay gap for minorities working for it in the U.S. CNBC


High-profile fugitives

In the context of the Carlos Ghosn saga, Fortune's Shawn Tully looks back at the tale of top commodities trader Marc Rich, who managed to dodge capture (over a massive alleged tax fraud) for the best part of two decades, before being controversially pardoned by President Bill Clinton. Is Ghosn the new Rich? Fortune

Chinese growth

China's GDP grew 6.1% in 2019, down from 6.6% the previous year and marking the slowest pace of growth in the country for 29 years. The causes range from slowing retail sales and exports, and weakening investment in infrastructure and factory construction. Nikkei Asian Review

Missile casualties

Although the U.S. initially stated that last week's Iranian missile attack on an airbase in Iraq caused no casualties, it turns out that several U.S. service members were injured. The attack was a reprisal for the American assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, and its limited nature helped both sides step back from further escalation, for now. The service members apparently sustained concussions, the symptoms of which only became apparent days after the incident. CNN

Facial recognition

A leaked European Commission document suggests the EU may impose a temporary ban on the use of automated facial recognition systems in public spaces by both public and private concerns. The move could bring the EU executive into conflict with members such as Germany and France, both of which are planning surveillance systems that use the technology. Euractiv

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.


In 1930, Fortune published its first-ever issue, featuring the goddess Fortuna and her wheel on the cover. This year, on our 90th anniversary, we’re celebrating with a new Fortune. Here’s what’s in store for you:

  • We’ve launched a new site, where you’ll find the best of business all in one place: strategic insights, deep-dive stories, and exclusive access to what executives are thinking. To access all of our revamped stories, register for free.
  • Later this month, we’re launching new newslettersThe Bull Sheet, a daily brief on finance news, and The Broadside, a monthly bulletin for career-oriented women. Sign up to stay up to date on their launches.
  • We’ve launched a new hub for our exclusive videos. It curates collections of executive insights—the latest and best from our interviews with business leaders, analysis series, and conference sessions. Access hundreds of hours of content.
  • Starting with the February 2020 issue, we’re substantially upgrading our print magazine. There will be more stories per issue, and the reading experience will be more premium, with gorgeous, higher quality covers and stock. To see for yourself, subscribe to the magazine.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet