CEO Daily is delighted to see our journalistic brethren and sistren taking note of what we think is the most important trend in business: a growing desire to address problems normally considered the realm of governments. The Amazon-J.P. Morgan-Berkshire effort to address a broken health system is one data point; efforts by a raft of companies–such as Google, IBM and Cisco–to address the education and training challenges posed by accelerating technological change are others.
Axios’ Kim Hart posted Saturday on this topic, quoting Grameen Foundation’s Steven Hollingsworth saying this is “a moment of truth for corporations.” The New York Times’ Frank Bruni took a more jaundiced view, concluding his column by casting shade on Elon Musk’s space program, and all such efforts by business to take over government functions: “There may be something for all of us in Musk’s rocket launch. But there’s definitely a whole lot more in it for Musk.”
Fortune planted a flag on this trend more than two years ago, when we launched our annual Change the World list, then held the Fortune Global Forum at the Vatican, and, more recently, created The CEO Initiative. Unlike Bruni, we celebrate a return to the fundamental truths elucidated by Adam Smith more than 200 years ago. The profit motive is a powerful tool for addressing society’s most intractable problems. And at a time when many governments are demonstrating their impotency, a focused effort by business to do better should be welcomed.
Are companies acting it in their own interest? Of course. Their actions are earning them loyalty from employees and customers, helping them discover overlooked efficiencies, and unlocking new markets. Does that mean those efforts aren’t a boon to society? Not at all. The new business activism can’t solve all the problems being sidestepped by government. But it can go a long way.
More news below.
The new U.S. tax code will restrict some of the deductions claimed by U.S. companies that used mergers with overseas companies to reduce their tax bill back home, according to experts quoted by the Wall Street Journal. “Many foreign-domiciled companies that use intercompany debt as part of their tax structure are likely to be impacted negatively,” said Paul Herendeen, chief financial officer of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, which is affected. WSJ
New Barclays Charge
The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office has hit Barclays Bank with an “unlawful assistance” charge over a $3 billion loan it granted to the State of Qatar a decade ago. In 2008, the bank avoided the part-nationalization that hit rivals Lloyds and RBS by securing an enormous rescue package from Qatar and other investors. The SFO is interested in secret payments that allegedly smoothed the way for this package. Telegraph
Unilever Ad Threat
Consumer goods giant Unilever says it will pull ads from Facebook and Google if they fail to protect children and increase transparency. “As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers …read more