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Corporate values under a Biden presidency

August 21, 2020, 10:29 AM UTC

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Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan one more time before he returns from vacation.

The presidency of Donald Trump has fueled many national debates in the U.S., particularly around subjects such as immigration and racial injustice, that have in turn led the country’s corporate leaders to speak out and assert their companies’ values. It is surely no coincidence that, in this febrile atmosphere, the Business Roundtable last year felt compelled to herald a shift to “stakeholder capitalism”—the first anniversary of which sparked some expert analysis from Fortune‘s Geoff Colvin earlier this week.

So what will happen to that trend if, as the polls suggest is likely to happen, Joe Biden wins the presidency come November?

As Colvin pointed out, this outcome would make it “highly likely that large-scale legislation—raising taxes, giving employees more power, and increasing business regulation—will be enacted under the banner of stakeholder capitalism.”

“Whether the CEOs of the Business Roundtable will like it is by no means certain,” he added pointedly.

Evergreen Strategy Group cofounders Nick Merrill and Dan Schwerin (both former Hillary Clinton staffers) also tackled the issue in a Fast Company piece yesterday, warning CEOs that “the bar for corporate conscience could soon get a whole lot higher.”

“If Biden wins, expectations for what it takes to be a values-driven company will increase and business leaders will have to step it up,” they wrote. “A glossy ad campaign or generous philanthropic commitment won’t be enough. Getting your own house in order—which many companies still fail to do—will be necessary, but not sufficient. Without the foil of President Trump and his antics, CEOs will have to back specific policy proposals, build coalitions, and put real political muscle behind their principles.”

The piece looks back to Levi Strauss’s gun-violence-related activism, as well as BlackRock’s sustainability drive, for lessons. I found it a thought-provoking read.

Separately, here’s a spot of Friday feedback, regarding my essay yesterday about the hype around 5G and its geopolitical importance.

“I think you may be misinformed as to the importance and impact of 5G. 5G is the network that will enable a global company’s digital infrastructure to run. It’s the foundation for A.I., and IOT.”

“5G is only part of the puzzle and…there is a need for other legacy infrastructure to also be updated if the benefits of 5G are to be realized.”

I’m juxtaposing these two pieces of feedback because I think the second largely answers the first. Yes, 5G promises a lot, but it’s not a magic bullet. The well-rehearsed 5G-is-needed-for-driverless-cars pitch is a case in point: the communications standard being used is one thing, but getting automated vehicles to coexist with cars steered by human drivers is quite another, particularly when the pandemic’s economic fallout will likely hit funding for the necessary roadside infrastructure.

Anyhow, enjoy your weekend. News below.

David Meyer


Ant Group

The Chinese fintech outfit Ant Group is hoping for the biggest IPO ever, with a targeted valuation of $225 billion. Ant is an Alibaba affiliate, and Alibaba—also founded by Jack Ma—also took the biggest-IPO title back in 2014, when it raised $25 billion. Saudi Aramco broke the record last December, by raising $25.6 billion. Ant is targeting $30 billion. Fortune

Bannon charges

Former Trump campaign guru Steve Bannon has, with three others, been arrested and charged for allegedly defrauding donors to a crowdfunding campaign for the border wall. Here are some colorful details from the indictment, including the U.S. Postal Service's involvement in the case, the alleged use of fake "social media" services to hide the fraud, and a boat called Warfighter. Fortune

Amazon and Biden

Amazon has removed t-shirts from it platform over the vulgar anti-Joe Biden and Kamala Harris phrase that was printed on them. An Arkansas attorney had written to Amazon decrying the apparel's "racist, sexist and offensive" nature, though it is not clear whether Amazon was responding to her, or to Twitter users who made similar complaints. CNN

British retail

British retail sales last month rose above pre-pandemic levels, according to the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics. Capital Economics economist Ruth Gregory: "Shoppers are starting to return to the High Street." The ONS also said the clothing sector was worst-hit during lockdown. BBC


Crypto flight

A new report from blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis shows more than $50 billion in cryptocurrency has been moved out of China in the last year. This suggests Chinese investors have been transferring more money out of the country than they are allowed; wealthy citizens previously used loopholes involving real estate and other assets, but the authorities have been cracking down on those. CNBC

Brexit drama

The latest round of talks around the U.K. and EU's post-Brexit trade arrangements didn't provide any breakthrough, according to the EU side. Reminder: any deal has to be ready in time for a mid-October approval by the EU's national leaders, if it is to gain ratification in time for the transitional period's end-of-year expiry. Reuters

USPS drama

In a piece that begins by quoting The Marvelettes' classic "Please Mr. Postman"—just try shaking that earworm now—Yale's Jeffrey Sonnenfeld writes for Fortune that President Trump's predictions of widespread, pro-Democrat mail-in-voting fraud "are not matched by evidence," and that the U.S. Postal Service's mission is supposed to be driven by public service, not profitability. Fortune

Vaccine U-turn

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a remark about making a potential coronavirus vaccine compulsory for citizens, and his science minister reinforced the idea—but then, following backlash from anti-vaxxers, the government backtracked. The vaccine, if and when it appears, will not be made mandatory in Australia after all. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.