DealBook Briefing: The Slippery Trade Aid Slope
$12 billion for farmers may only be the first trade bailoutThe Trump administration has promised America’s farmers $12 billion to offset economic damage from its trade wars. President Trump’s tariffs have provoked retaliatory levies on American pork, beef, soybeans and sorghum.
It’s only a “short-term solution,” according to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. It still faces criticism. Farmers would rather sell goods than receive handouts. And if the World Trade Organization decides it’s an unfair subsidy, it could open the way to yet more retaliation. Then, as the editorial board of the NYT argues, there are the other candidates for trade aid:
Why shouldn’t manufacturing companies and other businesses ask to be made whole for having to pay higher prices for steel and aluminum after Mr. Trump raised tariffs on those metals? What about the workers at Harley-Davidson who will lose their jobs when the company moves some production overseas to avoid the European Union’s retaliatory tariffs on American motorcycles?Elsewhere in trade: Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, will offer Mr. Trump ideas for easing tensions today (it could be a sticky meeting). Many U.S. manufacturers are taking tariffs in their stride (Apple may become an exception). The trade war could dampen Chinese enthusiasm for U.S. oil. And here’s how to spot if tariffs damage the economy.
Who has the little investor’s back? Big MoneyThe Main Street Investors Coalition says it represents retail investors with no voice in corporate America. But it’s trying to reduce the influence of pension funds and large 401(k) plans, where most little guys keep their money.
The coalition popped up in the past two months and is positioning itself against firms like BlackRock and Vanguard, which manage trillions of dollars of Americans’ retirement savings and have been using the shareholder votes that come with those investments to take activist positions against corporate boards. The group is incensed that such firms are increasingly promoting environmental, social and governance causes on issues like climate change, gun control and employee diversity.Empowering individual investors might sound noble. But this coalition knows full well that individual investors rarely mount proxy contests, so its plans would probably leave boards and managers more secure.
C.E.O. activism is the new normalFrom Starbucks’ racial bias training to the Dick’s assault weapon ban, chief executives have been taking stands on social issues for several years. David Gelles brings DealBook an early look at the public relations firm Weber Shandwick’s third annual report on the trend, which suggests this is the new normal.
Some takeaways from the survey of more than 1,000 Americans:
■ People are increasingly aware of C.E.O. activism. More than a third view it favorably.
■ Nearly half of respondents believe C.E.O. activism can influence government policy. Democrats and Republicans agree that it can make an impact.
■ Less than 40 percent of respondents believe C.E.O.s “have a responsibility” to speak out. About two-thirds of Republicans said C.E.O.s should “stick to business.”
■ The top issues people want C.E.O.s to address? Training, equal pay and sexual harassment. Bottom of the list: gun control, nationalism, marijuana legalization and abortion.
Facebook gets a break in China, but it’s complicatedAfter a decade or so of stalled progress in Beijing, Facebook has announced plans for an innovation hub in Hangzhou. It promises a focus on “training and workshops” for local developers, innovators and start-ups, with $30 million of backing.
But even that modest step is looking fraught: Paul Mozur and Sheera Frenkel of the NYT report that the corporate registration for the hub vanished from a Chinese government website late Tuesday, and censors seem to be targeting references to it online.
More Facebook news: Its top lawyer is resigning. Its former security chief implored his team to take more responsibility as he left. And later today the company will reveal what — if anything — the Cambridge Analytica storm did to its second-quarter earnings.
Don’t get too excited about Deutsche Bank’s bright spotThe lender’s net profit dropped from a year earlier in the second quarter — but not nearly as much as expected.
So was that a sign that Deutsche Bank’s turnaround plan — which has included over 7,000 job cuts — is on track for triumph? Not a clear one, says Edward Evans of Bloomberg Opinion:
It’s important to stress that these are only preliminary figures, and it’s far from clear that they’re sustainable. The new CEO Christian Sewing was helped by a 100 million-euro gain on an asset sale and some strangely perverse accounting rules that let the bank book a gain when its bonds perform badly.
Revolving DoorCalvin McDonald, president and chief executive of Sephora, will replace Laurent Potdevin as C.E.O. of Lululemon. (FT)
Jason Ropell, the head of Amazon’s film unit, is leaving. (FT)
John Malone is retiring from the board of Charter Communications. (WSJ)
The speed readDeals
■ Ford is spinning out its autonomous vehicle program. (WSJ)
■ A partnership between RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers University will create one of America’s largest health care systems. (WSJ)
■ Tsinghua Unigroup, China’s top state chip manufacturer, will reportedly buy Linxens, a French company that makes components for smart bank cards, for about $2.6 billion. (Reuters)
Politics and policy
■ Intel lost a tax case about share-based compensation overseas. (WSJ)
■ Prime Minister Theresa May is taking over Brexit negotiations. (FT)
■ Ivanka Trump is shutting her fashion brand. (NYT)
■ How Amazon is bringing its cloud computing technology into other companies’ data centers. (Information)
■ Why big investors are betting on Chinese facial recognition. (DealBook)
■ Uber’s autonomous cars are back on the road, with humans driving. (Verge)
Best of the rest
■ Inflation in Venezuela could reach one million percent this year. (NYT)
■ The European Commission found that carmakers are manipulating emissions data ahead of changes in standards. (FT)