TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson on racism: ‘I’ve been mistaken for a waiter’

July 17, 2020, 10:29 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Roger Ferguson, CEO of TIAA and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, is one of only four black CEOs on the Fortune 500 list. He sat down with Fortune’s Susie Gharib this week for a frank conversation about race relations in America. You can watch the interview here, but this is what he had to say on why he was speaking out now on the topic:

“I think it is really important that everyone understand that even African Americans who have lived and benefited from the American dream, who are, as I am, beneficiaries of the civil rights movement, we have had our moments as well. Racism is not a class-only issue although there are class overtones, it has everything to do with what you look like.

“I’ve been mistaken for a waiter, I’ve been asked to pick up someone’s spoon at a social event, I’ve been watched when I go into retail outlets the way any African American might be, I’ve seen people step aside when I come by. Racism is not something that only happens to poor, uneducated black people, it happens to everybody.”

Ferguson is hopeful the current global movement may mark a turning point.

“America has been having ebbs and flows around racism from the beginning. I don’t expect us to have a sudden epiphany this year that’s going to make 2021 better. But I am looking forward to continuing to have real and honest dialogue and carry it through the full year.”

And since it’s Friday, some feedback. Genworth CEO Tom McInerney wrote in after my post mentioning growing fears of a second wave of economic effects from COVID-19, saying his company “has determined we will extend our U.S. work remotely status to January 1, 2021 from September 8, 2020” for its 3,000 employees, and that even after that the company will “allow employees to work primarily from home if that is their choice.”

More news below.

Alan Murray


Barr burn

Attorney General William Barr has lashed out at Disney and a host of U.S. tech giants for compromising their principles in their dealings with the Chinese authorities. From Barr's speech: "American companies must understand the stakes. The Chinese Communist Party thinks in terms of decades and centuries, while we tend to focus on the next quarterly earnings report. But if Disney and other American corporations continue to bow to Beijing, they risk undermining both their own future competitiveness and prosperity, as well as the classical liberal order that has allowed them to thrive." Bloomberg

Netflix Co-CEO

Netflix's stock price was decimated following the announcement of chief content officer Ted Sarandos as co-CEO, alongside Red Hastings. Sarandos will hang onto his content role, but Hastings says they have really been partners for decades, and the change just formalizes that situation. Netflix's results were pretty solid, though it warned of less growth in the second half of the year. Fortune

Russian hack

Government officials in the U.S., U.K. and Canada have blamed a Russian hacking group for spying on organizations involved in coronavirus vaccine development, allegedly in order to steal intellectual property. The group, known as "Cozy Bear" or APT-29, has a long history of hacking governments and political parties—you may remember them from the attacks on the Democratic National Committee back in 2016. Wall Street Journal

Twitter hack

Twitter says the extraordinary attack on its systems—via social engineering, the attackers managed to hijack high-profile users' accounts for the purposes of a cryptocurrency scam—did not result in the theft of users' passwords. "Currently, we don’t believe resetting your password is necessary," the company said. Fortune


747 retirement

British Airways is the world's largest operator of the 747-400 jumbo jet—or, it was. Now, due to the massive pandemic-related downturn in travel, it's immediately retiring every one of the 747s in its fleet. That's 31 planes, or around a tenth of the total fleet. Spokesman: "It is unlikely our magnificent 'queen of the skies' will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic." Fortune

Privacy Shield

After yesterday's bombshell striking-down of the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield data-sharing agreement, what does the court's decision mean for U.S. companies operating in the EU? Here's a rundown of the impacts, which depend on what sort of legal basis those companies are using for their EU-to-U.S. personal-data transfers. Fortune

Calculating unemployment

Fordham University finance professor John Finnerty reckons the headline unemployment rate in the U.S. undershoots the true scale of the problem. He explains in a piece for Fortune that the error is down to misclassifications by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finnerty: "Correcting the misclassification error would have increased the headline unemployment rate by almost one full percentage point in March, almost five percentage points in April, about three percentage points in May, and about one percentage point in June." Fortune

Saving news

Jennifer Hoewe and Brett Sherrick, assistant professors at Purdue University's Brian Lamb School of Communication, write for Fortune that paying for news is the only way to save journalism at "a time when access to accurate information could not be more important." They write: "Good journalism is expensive. In order for the press to operate in a capitalist-driven democracy, people must pay for the content that fulfills their goals of being well informed." (P.S.: If you're not a Fortune subscriber yet, here's the link.) Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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