Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

Business Leaders Speak Out on Election Integrity

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These days, nothing goes without saying

Tech, finance, media and other executives are calling on Americans to stay cool during a heated election season. “The health of our economy and markets depends on the strength of our democracy,” the LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman said in a statement signed by more than 50 business leaders, provided first to DealBook. The group, convened by the Leadership Now Project, also includes Eddie Fishman, the chief operating officer of D.E. Shaw; Seth Klarman, the C.E.O. of Baupost Group; Lisa Lewin, the C.E.O. of General Assembly; Marissa Mayer, the former Yahoo and Google executive; and Alan Patricof, the founder of Apax and Greycroft.

The executives expressed support for three key principles:

• “Every vote will be counted,” and election officials should “encourage patience” during potentially protracted counts of absentee ballot.

• The news media should “take caution” and avoid calling the election prematurely.

• Business leaders should “promote patience and civility among employees, communities and the American people.”

America has successfully held elections through previous challenges, like the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the 1918 flu pandemic,” the statement concludes. “Now, it is our turn.”

The statement is a testament to the times. “Nothing about 2020 is usual,” said Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, who advises the Leadership Now Project. He said there was “an essential role for business in addressing political dysfunction,” citing recent data showing that political gridlock is causing a “disastrous decline” in America’s competitiveness.

A contested election is a big worry for business. If recent market moves are any indication, businesses are making peace with the possibility of higher taxes under a Biden administration as a trade-off for a definitive election result. Some Wall Street advisers told us last month that they were preparing clients for the possibility of a contested election, as President Trump repeatedly casts doubt on mail-in ballots and is noncommittal on what he will do if he loses the vote. That’s why some executives, like the group putting their names to today’s statement, may feel the need to say what was once obvious.


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin and Lauren Hirsch in New York, Ephrat Livni in Washington, and Michael J. de la Merced and Jason Karaian in London.


Here’s what’s happening

Congress makes little progress on stimulus talks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi outlined “insufficiencies” in the White House’s latest $1.8 trillion offer, and then Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, called for a Senate vote on a $500 billion bill that is doomed to fail in the House.

Apple stakes its future on the latest iPhones. The company announced four new models, ranging from $700 to more than $1,000. Analysts said the lower-than-expected prices might entice owners of older iPhones to upgrade. Another draw is the iPhones’ adoption of 5G wireless technology (more on that below).

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