DealBook Briefing: The Debate Over Profits vs. Public Interest Continues – The New York Times

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Many of the countrys biggest companies said last month that their mission wasnt just to make profits. But not all business leaders agree and, as Andrew points out in the latest DealBook special section, that reflects an existential divide for USA Inc.

In one corner: nearly 200 C.E.O.s who committed to leading their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. They include Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson, and Ginni Rometty of IBM.

In the other corner:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who told Andrew at last weeks DealBook/DC Strategy Forum, I wouldnt have signed it. His rationale: To be profitable, you have to have a purpose.

Steve Schwarzman of Blackstone, who said on Monday, I know why were in business: because people give us money to manage.

The debate raises the question of what it means to be a business leader in todays environment, especially now, Andrew writes. He notes that C.E.O.s are increasingly being asked by their employees and customers to develop policy positions when there is seemingly a void of leadership in Washington.

Among the attendees of the forum: Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island; Sheila Bair, the former head of the F.D.I.C.; Steve Rattner, the Obama adminstrations auto czar; Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform; Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbias Graduate School of Business; and Abigail Disney, the philanthropist.

Heres more from the DealBook special section:

At the DealBook/DC Strategy Forum, Mr. Mnuchin spoke about how corporations work with the government, activist investors and his belief that the Trump tax cuts will eventually pay for themselves.

Microsofts president, Brad Smith, defended his companys work with the Pentagon: We feel it is our responsibility as an American company to ensure that people who are literally putting their lives at risk to defend our country have the best technology that we can create for them.

Task forces came up with ways to fix pretty much everything, including changing the tax code, coping with climate change and dealing with legal marijuana.

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Todays DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Michael J. de la Merced, Lindsey Underwood and Stephen Grocer.

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The central bank cut its benchmark interest rate a quarter percentage point yesterday, as expected. But theres a widening division among policymakers, which makes predicting what comes next much more difficult.

The U.S. economy remains strong over all, but the Fed will act if its outlook darkens, the chairman, Jay Powell, said yesterday. That suggests another rate cut is possible this year if the central bank thinks that the trade war will continue to weigh on global growth.

Dissent is growing within the Fed. Three governors voted against yesterdays reduction, though for different reasons: The presidents of the Boston and Kansas City Feds wanted no change, while the head of the St. Louis Fed wanted a bigger cut. The split was the biggest among Fed policymakers since 2016.

Mr. Powell acknowledged those divisions, calling it a time of difficult judgments and adding that the bulk of the committee was assessing the economy meeting by meeting.

President Trump was unhappy, since he has pushed the Fed to cut rates even further. Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again, Mr. Trump tweeted. No guts, no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!

Since founding the co-working company, Adam Neumann has become known across Wall Street and Silicon Valley as a leader full of unusual exuberance and excess, Eliot Brown writes in the WSJ. But his management style and antics have often rubbed many including prospective investors in a shelved I.P.O. the wrong way.

Many of the same qualities that helped fuel his companys breakneck growth in the private market are piling up as potential liabilities as the company prepares to go public helmed by a C.E.O. who looks little like a typical public-company chief, Mr. Brown writes.

He pushed for rowdy parties in the early days. He often walks barefoot around the office. In an earlier office, he blared songs by pop-star Rihanna while a trainer held a punching bag for him, and then walked around afterward while still sweaty from the exertion.

Like some high-profile C.E.O.s in tech, he hopes to live forever, according to three people who heard him say this, and has invested in life-extension start-up Life Biosciences.

He previously has instructed staff to fire 20 percent of employees a year, bemoaning the number of B players hired amid rapid growth. Managers were unable to hit the target even when they included attrition.

He drew criticism in 2016 for discussing a recent round of layoffs and then serving tequila shots and bringing in the rap artist DMC for a performance.

More: Two of the companys planned real estate deals in London are reportedly near collapse.

The telecom giant is reportedly considering a sale of DirecTV, the satellite TV provider it bought for nearly $49 billion four years ago, according to the WSJ. But carrying out such a deal could prove to be difficult.

AT&T is said to be deciding whether to spin out DirecTV or sell it to its main rival, Dish Network, the WSJ reports, citing unnamed sources.

Jettisoning DirecTV would be an about-face for Randall Stephenson, AT&Ts C.E.O. He pitched the 2015 acquisition as a way for the company to grow beyond wireless cell services.

The activist investor Elliott Management isnt thrilled by DirecTV, people briefed on the matter have said. The hedge fund, which last week began a campaign to change AT&Ts strategy, has proposed getting rid of the division, but that doesnt appear to be the firms highest priority.

There are reasons to keep DirecTV. Though the business continues to decline, it has largely stabilized, and, as the WSJ points out, it contributes significant cash flow and customer accounts to AT&T.

Selling DirecTV to Dish might not be possible, since antitrust regulators would most likely balk at combining the two main satellite TV providers. AT&Ts C.F.O., John Stephens, said at a conference last week: Thats been tried from a regulatory perspective. It hasnt been successful, and I dont know that theres any change in that regulatory perspective.

CBS, WarnerMedia and Viacom will no longer air commercials for Juul and other e-cigarette companies, David Yaffe-Bellany of the NYT writes.

The announcement comes after recent health warnings from the American Lung Association and the C.D.C., and as the Trump administration and several states are calling for a ban on flavored e-cigarettes to curb teenage vaping.

Nearly 400 vaping-related illnesses have been reported, and at least seven deaths have been linked to vaping.

E-cigarette brands have spent $57 million on TV advertising this year. Juul alone has spent more than $30 million, according to iSpot.tv.

That raises questions about the future of vaping companies, and for the merger talks between Altria and Philip Morris International.

In a Vanity Fair article adapted from Mr. Igers new memoir, the Disney C.E.O. writes of his long bond with the late Apple chief and says that their companies might have merged were Mr. Jobs still alive.

I believe that if Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously, Mr. Iger writes.

Our connection was much more than a business relationship. We enjoyed each others company immensely, and we felt we could say anything to each other, that our friendship was strong enough that it was never threatened by candor.

Mr. Iger also provides a behind-the-scenes look at Disneys acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel:

The Pixar acquisition came after Mr. Iger sought to repair Disneys strained relationship with Mr. Jobs. The process involved the video iPod, a discussion over a whiteboard and a Jobs-ian pitch to Disneys board.

Mr. Jobs was a secret weapon in Mr. Igers effort to buy Marvel: The Apple chief, then a Disney director, vouched for his friend to Ike Perlmutter, the comic giants C.E.O. That was despite Mr. Jobs telling Mr. Iger about comic books, I hate them more than I hate video games.

Tracy Britt Cool, one of Warren Buffetts top lieutenants, is leaving Berkshire Hathaway to start her own investment firm.

Steve Dowling is stepping down as Apples vice president of communications at the end of October.

KPMGs British arm is cutting as many as 250 administrative positions to lower costs.

Paul Eremenko has resigned as C.T.O. of United Technologies after two years in the role.

Deals

The heads of Endeavor, Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, and other senior executives, could see their holdings valued at $1.5 billion in the media conglomerates I.P.O. (Bloomberg)

Microsoft says it will buy back stock worth as much as $40 billion. (WSJ)

Centerbridge Partners is reportedly near a deal to sell Great Wolf Resorts, an indoor water-park company, to Blackstone for at least $2.9 billion. (Bloomberg)

Masa Son of SoftBank has pledged nearly 40 percent of his stake in the Japanese tech giant as collateral for loans. (Bloomberg)

Pennsylvania has joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in opposing T-Mobiles proposed $26 billion takeover of Sprint. (Reuters)

Politics and policy

President Trump is weighing options for retaliating against Iran over a drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, including tougher sanctions and limited military strikes. (NYT)

Congressional Republicans are skeptical of a gun-control proposal by Attorney General Bill Barr, in large part because Mr. Trump hasnt signed off on it. (NYT)

Tom Barrack attended two events with the president in California this week. Prosecutors have questioned him in their investigation of foreign influence in the 2016 campaign. (NYT)

The Trump administration plans to issue an environmental violation notice to San Francisco over its homelessness problem. (NYT)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada apologized after a photograph surfaced of him wearing brownface makeup at an Arabian Nights-themed party in 2001. (NYT)

Brexit

British and European officials are increasingly worried that Britain will leave the E.U. without a deal. (Bloomberg)

Britains Supreme Court has been thrust into the middle of the Brexit debate over Prime Minister Boris Johnsons move to suspend Parliament. (NYT)

How the voyage of tomatoes from a farm in Italy to Britain reveals the potential problems that a no-deal Brexit poses for trade. (NYT)

British food companies are rejiggering sandwiches to prepare for a messy departure from the E.U. (FT)

Jeffrey Epstein

An unidentified woman at the center of sex-trafficking charges against Jeffrey Epstein has sued the late financiers estate and described in graphic detail the abuse she said she endured at his hands. (WSJ)

Tech

The Chinese telecom giant Huawei was suspended from The Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams, an international cybersecurity group. (WSJ)

Facebook unveiled Portal TV, a voice-controlled video chat and streaming device that connects to users TVs. (FT)

Comcast will give its streaming device, Flex, to its internet-only customers for free. (WSJ)

Alibaba and Tencent have reportedly refused to provide customers loan data to Beijing as part of an effort by China to create a government-backed credit scoring program. (FT)

Mark Zuckerberg is expected to meet with lawmakers in Washington today, including the Republican senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mike Lee of Utah, in an effort to shape internet regulations. (WSJ)

Best of the rest

Supply shocks, combined with tight labor markets and political pressure on the Fed, have been a recipe for inflation in the past and could be again. (WSJ)

Equifax will let consumers hand over electric and cable bills to lenders help them get approved for loans. (WSJ)

What really brought down the 737 Max? (NYT)

Gun violence costs the U.S. $229 billion annually, according to a new survey. (CNBC)

Thanks for reading! Well see you tomorrow.

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DealBook Briefing: The Debate Over Profits vs. Public Interest Continues - The New York Times

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