One company may have a harder time than most separating itself from the controversy at the Capitol.
Andrew here. As companies across the U.S. condemn the attack on the Capitol and try to distance themselves from Republicans who challenged the election result, one may have a harder time than most separating itself from the controversy: Intercontinental Exchange, or ICE, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.
Its C.E.O. is Jeffrey Sprecher, who is married to Senator Kelly Loeffler, the Georgia Republican who lost her seat in last week’s runoff election. Ms. Loeffler ran as an unabashed supporter of President Trump, and up until the mob stormed the Capitol she planned to object to the Electoral College count. She “was one of the loudest amplifiers of falsehoods about supposed voter fraud in Georgia,” according to NPR. “Election administrators there begged for weeks for officials to stop sharing such claims, for fear of violence.”
Ms. Loeffler, who previously led investor relations for ICE, said after the Capitol attack that “the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent” and reversed her position on challenging the certification when Congress reconvened. Mr. Sprecher also condemned “the lawlessness that transpired at the Capitol” in a statement last week, and ICE told DealBook that it was pausing donations from its PAC.
Still, the roles of Ms. Loeffler and her husband, who personally gave $10.5 million to a PAC supporting his wife’s campaign and $1 million to a pro-Trump PAC last year, raise some thorny questions for the company, its board, employees, traders and the companies listed on the exchange. The company’s political entanglements are unique, but similar issues are springing up at other firms.
When Charles Schwab said yesterday that it would permanently close its corporate PAC — more on that below — it added, “We also believe it is unfair to knowingly blur the lines between the actions of a publicly held corporation and those of individuals who work or have worked for the company.” The company’s billionaire chairman, Charles R. Schwab, has personally given millions to pro-Trump and Republican groups, far more than his company’s PAC. “Every individual in our firm has a right to their own, individual political beliefs and we respect that right,” the company said in its statement.
Several companies have taken a public stand against lawmakers who challenged the election results by suspending corporate political donations, effectively saying, “We won’t do business with you anymore.” Having drawn that line in the sand with certain politicians, what about other businesses? Will the different corporate reactions to political giving after the Capitol attack affect relationships between firms? What about the personal reactions and political positions of company leaders?
So here are the questions of the day: Should this matter to companies like AT&T, Morgan Stanley and Walmart that are listed on the N.Y.S.E. and that condemned the violence at the Capitol and halted political donations? What about private companies looking for an exchange to list their shares? What do you think? Let us know at [email protected].
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
President-elect Joe Biden is set to share his stimulus proposals. The wide-ranging plan, expected to be announced this evening, will include direct payments of $2,000 for Americans; supplemental federal unemployment benefits; additional spending on vaccine distribution; and a broad infrastructure initiative. It is expected to span two bills and cost trillions of dollars.
Dollar General will pay workers to get Covid-19 vaccines. The retailer said it would give hourly workers who completed the vaccine regimen the equivalent of four hours’ pay. “We do not want our employees to have to choose between receiving a vaccine or coming to work,” the company said.
Trump’s antitrust chief is stepping down. Makan Delrahim submitted his resignation as the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, effective Jan. 19. DealBook obtained a copy of the letter, in which he listed the government’s antitrust investigations into Big Tech and criminal enforcement actions against no-poaching agreements among his accomplishments.
Affirm soars in its market debut. Shares in the e-commerce lender nearly doubled in their first day of trading yesterday, rising above $97 per share after being priced at $49. It’s the latest sign of exuberant investor interest in tech offerings after strong showings by Airbnb and DoorDash, with more companies on deck in the coming months.
BlackRock’s top female executive is retiring. Barbara Novick, who co-founded the investment management giant, will step down as vice chairwoman on Feb. 1. She was known as a liaison to regulators, regularly providing advice to Fed officials and others during crises, including the pandemic.
Charles Schwab scraps its PAC
Charles Schwab is shutting down its political action committee, perhaps the most significant move among companies rethinking their political giving after last week’s mob violence at the Capitol. The brokerage said it would donate its PAC’s leftover funds to Boys & Girls Clubs of America and to historically Black colleges and universities.
This goes further than many other companies, which are temporarily pausing donations. In a survey of 40 C.E.O.s from major corporations at a meeting held by Yale’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld yesterday, nearly 60 percent said that companies shouldn’t stop all political donations. In doing just that, Schwab joins the likes of IBM, which has long eschewed political donations, as Andrew noted in his column this week arguing that companies should rethink their giving entirely.
Schwab cited “today’s hyperpartisan environment” as a factor. “We believe a clear and apolitical position is in the best interest of our clients, employees, stockholders and the communities in which we operate,” the company said in a statement. The company’s PAC had split its donations — $460,000 in the most recent election cycle — roughly equally along party lines. In the latest period, it gave to the House minority leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, whose vote against certifying the election results made Schwab a target of ads calling out companies for funding lawmakers seeking to overturn the vote. “It is a sad byproduct of the current political climate that some now resort to using questionable tactics and misleading claims to attack companies like ours,” the company said, alluding to the pressure campaigns.
The company, which is a member of the Consumer Bank Association, said that closing its PAC would not diminish its voice with lawmakers, noting it was a “major employer in a dozen metropolitan centers.”
In other fallout from the Capitol insurrection:
Airbnb will cancel and block all reservations in the Washington area next week, amid fears of more violence at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Jack Dorsey, the C.E.O. of Twitter, said he did not “celebrate or feel pride” in banning Mr. Trump from the platform, but urged followers to weigh in, asking: “Was this correct?” Thousands have responded.
“A driver may be human or may be software. I think there will be a long period of time in which it will be a hybrid.”
— Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s C.E.O., on the future of self-driving cars. On the latest episode of Kara Swisher’s Times Opinion podcast, Sway, he also discusses the effect of the pandemic on delivery services, the future of regulation in the gig economy and more.
Did Intel’s C.E.O. change head off an activist battle?
Intel moved yesterday to replace Bob Swan as C.E.O., two years after giving him the position on a permanent basis. Though the embattled chip giant insisted that the move was unrelated to pressure from the activist investor Dan Loeb, it’s surely hoping the change has placated the hedge fund manager.
Mr. Loeb’s Third Point fund pushed for change as Intel faces big challenges. The chipmaker’s stock has underperformed as manufacturing issues left the company trailing rivals like TSMC, Samsung, AMD and Nvidia. Intel has been losing engineering talent, raising questions about whether Mr. Swan — who has a finance background — was the right person to make tough technical decisions.
In a letter to Intel’s board last month, Mr. Loeb pressed the company to consider the separation of chip manufacturing from design, and unwind underperforming acquisitions.
Intel’s new leader will be Pat Gelsinger, the highly regarded C.E.O. of the software maker VMware, who was previously Intel’s chief technology officer. His engineering background — rather than pressure from Third Point — was behind the move, according to the company: “The board concluded that now is the right time to make this leadership change to draw on Pat’s technology and engineering expertise during this critical period of transformation at Intel,” Omar Ishrak, the company’s chairman, said.
In a stark assessment of what investors thought of the change, Intel shares jumped 7 percent yesterday, adding $15 billion to its market cap. Shares in VMware fell nearly 7 percent, worth about $4 billion in market cap for the smaller firm, which is bad for the company’s shareholders — but perhaps good for Mr. Gelsinger’s self-esteem.
All eyes are now on Mr. Loeb. He praised Intel’s move, tweeting: “Swan is a class act and did the right thing for all stake holders stepping aside.” But watch whether he files a slate of board nominees, signaling a potentially brutal proxy fight, before today’s deadline.
THE SPEED READ
The French government signaled that it may oppose Couche-Tard’s $20 billion takeover bid for the grocery chain Carrefour, citing food sovereignty and job security. (Reuters)
Two companies’ I.P.O.s priced above expectations: The pet goods retailer Petco sold shares at $18 each, raising $816 million, while the online marketplace Poshmark did so at $42, raising $277 million. (Reuters, Bloomberg)
Why SPACs are booming in New York but not in London. (Quartz)
Politics and policy
The Trump administration won’t bar Americans from investing in Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent as part of efforts to punish companies tied to China’s military. (WSJ)
Doug Leone, the billionaire head of the venture capital firm Sequoia, renounced his support for President Trump after last week’s Capitol rampage. (Recode)
Connecticut is investigating whether Amazon’s e-books business broke antitrust laws. (WSJ)
Carmakers worldwide are suffering from a parts shortage, and consumer electronics like PlayStations are to blame. (NYT)
Best of the rest
Climate activists criticized BlackRock for holding billions in investments in coal companies, despite its stated focus on climate change. (Business Insider)
David Barclay, the British billionaire who co-owned The Daily Telegraph newspaper and whose familial drama dominated headlines, has died. He was 86. (FT)
Let’s be honest, this is huge news even for a business newsletter: The N.B.A. superstar James Harden is leaving the Houston Rockets for the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team trade that could reshape the league. (NYT)
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