retail news in context, analysis with attitude

FYI...stories in this section are, in my estimation, important and relevant to business. However, they are relegated to this slot because some MNB readers have made clear that they prefer a politics-free MNB; I can't do that because sometimes the news calls out for coverage and commentary, but at least I can make it easy for folks to skip it if they so desire.

I'm flexible.

Yesterday was a day in which President Donald Trump’s relationships with various
corporations and CEOs seemed to unravel in precipitous fashion, as his comments about racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend seemed to attempt to create a moral equivalence to both sides and give succor to neo-Nazis, white supremacists and members of the KKK.

By the end of the day, two business-oriented executive advisory councils had collapsed. Even as executives bailed out of them, Trump announced he was disbanding the councils in what appeared to be a pre-emptive move designed to avoid embarrassment.

The New York Times reported it this way:

“The bar for a chief executive of a public corporation to repudiate a United States president is extraordinarily high. Corporate leaders aren’t given their power, prestige, responsibility and nine-figure pay packages to use the corner office as their personal soapbox.

“With President Trump’s comments on white supremacists and other right-wing extremists ringing in the ears of America’s chief executives, that high bar appears to have been passed.

“This week, what had been a trickle of defections from the White House business advisory councils over issues like immigration and climate change turned into a torrent. By Wednesday, both of the councils had collapsed; Mr. Trump insisted that he had decided to disband them.

“Such a public schism between a president and a business leadership long considered the backbone of the Republican establishment left corporate historians at a loss for precedent.”

Among the executives who found themselves in the middle of an unwanted controversy - and, some political analysts suggested, an unforced error by Trump -
were Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group, Ginni Rometti of IBM, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Mary T. Barra of General Motors, Inge Thulin of 3M, and Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup.

The Times notes that “historically, corporate aversion to politics has at times held firm even under national leadership that threatens the health of the economy, and with it the well-being of every company.” But these CEOs seemed to feel that they could no longer afford to be associated with the administration, and could not be seen by their stakeholders - employees, investors, customers - as being complicit with the administration’s approach.

However, taking a stand was not without risks. The Times notes in another story that when Walmart CEO Doug McMillon “forcefully criticized President Trump’s response … he risked alienating as many customers as he might win over.”

The Times went out and talked to a number of Walmart shoppers, and found mixed reactions. Some felt that McMillon was correct, some believed that Trump was correct in his assessment, and some believed that CEOs have no business taking political stands.
KC's View:
I commented a lot about this situation yesterday, so there’s no reason to repeat myself, except to again say that I’m with Sen. John McCain, who wrote that there is "no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry.”

There are no good fascists. There are no good Nazis. There are no good white supremacists. There are no good members of the KKK. And CEOs cannot afford to be in any way associated with such movements.