While You Were Working - August 14

Wall Street and Charlottesville

By now you’ve probably heard about how Ken Frazier, the chairman and CEO of the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., resigned from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council in protest of Trump’s handling of last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va.

You’ve probably also heard that Trump was none too happy about Frazier’s actions.

While many are commending Frazier for standing up for his beliefs, a fair question for Frazier might be: What took you so long? You were cool with the Muslim Ban. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord didn’t ruffle your feathers. Trump’s saber-rattling over North Korea (or not saber-rattling over Russia) has been A-OK. And the chaos and dysfunction in the West Wing has been totally acceptable.

Andrew Ross Sorkin penned an excellent column today calling out pretty much the whole of the CEO community for its silence. Some are afraid. Some don’t consider it part of their job description. Some, like JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon, consider serving the president their American duty. All of them are complicit.

These business leaders became CEOs because they were good at running a business. A key part of successfully running a business is the ability to read the tea leaves and strategize accordingly. What about the Trump tea leaves makes these CEOs want to keep investing in him? Has Team Trump somehow been quietly racking up a bunch of “wins” to make these business leaders want to stay on his team?

When it comes to Wall Street, the answer is a resounding yes.

The title of this column is While You Were Working because I aim to keep readers in the loop regarding news that breaks during their work day. Well, today the biggest story is the news that didn’t break. Not a single Wall Street CEO from one of Trump’s advisory groups thinks Charlottesville was enough to make them demand better leadership from the president. They don’t want to criticize Trump, because he is delivering for them. He is giving them exactly what they bargained for.

Time will tell if it was their very own Devil's Bargain.