What We Learned From the DealBook Online Summit

Thanks to all who joined us at this week’s DealBook Online Summit. If you missed any of the sessions, you can watch them here. Our next event, the DealBook D.C. Online Strategy Forum, will be held on Dec. 2-3. More details to come.


Andrew shares his impressions as host of the DealBook Online Summit:

After two days of conversations with some of the world’s most consequential newsmakers, these are the moments that will stick with me.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that at least 75 percent of society would need to take the Covid-19 vaccine, even if it had 95 percent efficacy, before it was safe to stop wearing masks and social distancing. That’s a very high threshold considering how polarized things are in the U.S. over basic steps like masking, let alone getting a shot (perhaps twice). So returning to normality could take longer than imagined, which will matter for business plans and government policies.

Bill Gates predicted that, even after the pandemic, habits will have changed. He said business travel could halve in the long term, which would have massive economic implications.

Jamie Dimon’s no-nonsense approach to negotiations and compromise is needed in Washington. Maybe it’s easier said than done, but I saw many people nodding on Zoom when the JPMorgan Chase chief broke down the state of stimulus talks. “I know now we have this big debate,” he said. “Is it $2.2 trillion, $1.5 trillion? You’ve got to be kidding me. I mean, just split the baby and move on. This is childish behavior on the part of our politicians.”

The debate about size and scale was also striking in the juxtaposition between Ruth Porat, Alphabet’s C.F.O., who argued that Google had helped create many small businesses (true) and Tim Sweeney, the founder of the “Fortnite” maker Epic Games, who said that tech giants were squeezing those businesses too hard (maybe also true). Mr. Sweeney’s legal argument against Apple seems more of a P.R. campaign than a winning case, but clearly his long game is for the government to take up his cause. At one point he likened his fight over payment processing fees to the one for civil rights.

The discussion about race and corporate America with Ursula Burns, Robert Smith and Michael Render (the rapper and activist known as Killer Mike) was virtual, but it felt raw and real. The debate about hiring quotas — especially Ms. Burns’s and Killer Mike’s pushback on the basis of my question about them — is worth your time, as is the rest of this important conversation.

LeBron James’s More Than a Vote group clearly had a profound impact on this election, mobilizing some 300,000 voters. And he broke the news in our discussion, with Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, that the voting-access group will remain active in Georgia for its Senate runoff elections.

Throughout the summit, there was a sense, from Mr. James to Killer Mike and the C.E.O.s and C.F.O.s we spoke with, that all are now using their platforms to be “more than” their titles — more than an executive, more than an athlete, more than an entertainer. After the election, I wondered whether the past four years of activism among business leaders were an aberration. The past two days convinced me that they were not.

A final thought: This is the ninth year of our summit, and I enjoyed hosting it online with all of you for the first time. I really hope we can get together in person soon. But the scale of the audience we reached this week leads me to believe that events may forever consider a hybrid approach, with some people attending in person and others beamed in from around the world.

Boeing’s 737 Max is cleared to fly. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the jet’s return to the skies following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, after reviewing changes to its software, design and crew training. Air travel remains depressed, however, so that won’t help Boeing’s financial troubles much.

America hits a grim Covid-19 milestone. The U.S. passed 250,000 coronavirus-related deaths yesterday, and could soon be reporting 2,000 or more deaths a day, matching the previous peak. New York City is shutting public schools and Boston’s mayor told college students traveling home for the holidays not to return until spring.

The Oxford Covid-19 vaccine shows promise. A study found that the vaccine, which AstraZeneca will manufacture, generates a strong immune response in the elderly. That follows findings from Pfizer and Moderna suggesting their vaccines are highly effective.

Warner Bros. will stream “Wonder Woman 1984” on Christmas. The studio said it would release the movie, the last blockbuster still scheduled this year, on HBO Max the day it opens in U.S. theaters. It’s an acknowledgment that many theaters are unlikely to open soon. Separately, the Cineworld theater chain is reportedly considering an insolvency plan.

L Brands begins a new Epstein inquiry. Two directors at the retailer, which owns Victoria’s Secret, have hired the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to investigate allegations by shareholders of undisclosed ties between the company, its founder Les Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and sex offender who died in jail last year.

“I’m a patriot before I’m the C.E.O. of JPMorgan”

In this era of upheaval, business leaders are being pulled in new directions, Jamie Dimon said. “C.E.O.s are being asked to do a lot of things today that they weren’t asked to do in the past,” he said. That includes addressing racial inequality (Mr. Dimon spoke of his company’s $30 billion commitment to the cause), the fraying ties between the U.S. and China (businesses “can help lead the conversation” there) and America’s leadership role (which is “predicated on its economic strength”).

But Mr. Dimon won’t head to Washington: When asked if he would be interested in becoming Treasury secretary, he said, “I love what I do, and I have never coveted the job.”

“A mandate to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to do the things we can do”

Senator Elizabeth Warren urged the Biden administration to use “all tools in their toolbox” — including executive orders and actions by federal agencies — to carry out Democrats’ priorities in the face of a potentially split Congress. Those goals include raising the minimum wage, canceling student debt and investing in child care.

Ms. Warren declined to say whether she wants a role in the administration, but emphasized her belief that “personnel is policy.” That may not mean an entirely Wall Street-free administration. “Remember, I hired people whose background was on Wall Street when I set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” she said. “It is important to have a team that brings a lot of different perspectives.”

“I can learn from my mistakes”

In his panel, the billionaire investor Robert Smith of Vista Equity Partners addressed his recent $140 million settlement over tax fraud. “I’m moving forward, I’ve made right with the government,” he said.

Mr. Smith framed the settlement in the context of his philanthropy, including his campaign for corporate America to help erase the racial wealth gap. “It’s clear to me that in order for me to focus on the problems of the present, I need to resolve the issues of the past,” he said.

The rapper and activist Killer Mike stepped in to defend Mr. Smith. “Never forget that this country was founded by people who didn’t want to pay taxes to a crown,” he said. “Let us never forget the sins of our past, because when they do, you start to judge people as though your moral authority is higher.” You can watch the exchange here.

As the price of Bitcoin approaches records, JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon weighed in at our summit:

We’re a believer in cryptocurrency, properly regulated and properly backed. Bitcoin is kind of different, and that’s not my cup of tea.

President-elect Joe Biden said yesterday that the General Services Administration’s delay in acknowledging his election win was hampering his team’s pandemic plans. “We’re all ready to go and do an awful lot of work right now,” he said in a call with nurses, firefighters and others. Until the G.S.A. “ascertains” his victory, he has no access to government funds, equipment and data before his inauguration.

The urgency about beginning the official transition was shared among many of the leaders at our summit, including ones who often disagree about policy:

  • “This is not a game,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said. “People around the world, people who would do us harm, are watching.”

  • “We need a peaceful transition,” Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase said. “We had an election. We have a new president. We should support that, whether you like the election outcome or not.”

  • “Transitions are extremely important to the smooth continuity of whatever you’re doing,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, especially now that “we’re in a very difficult public health situation.”

  • Albert Bourla, the chief executive of Pfizer, noted that the approval and distribution of a coronavirus during a transition was not “ideal,” adding, “it’s always better when there is clear accountability and leadership.”


  • The supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize bought a majority stake in FreshDirect, the grocery delivery company. (WSJ)

  • Arrival, a British maker of electric vans, will go public by merging with a SPAC. (FT)

  • Affirm, a major “buy now, pay later” start-up, filed to go public. It revealed that home-exercise company Peloton accounts for 30 percent of its revenue. (Business Insider)

Politics and policy

  • President Trump’s firing of a top cybersecurity official will strain ties to private security companies. (WSJ)

  • Top California Democrats are under fire for flouting the state’s pandemic guidelines. (NYT)


  • Apple will pay $113 million to settle more than 30 states’ investigation into its former practice of slowing older iPhones to extend battery life. (NYT)

  • More than 200 Facebook content moderators, who are classified as contractors, sent an open letter to executives to protest being ordered to the office. (NYT)

  • Marissa Mayer has a new venture: Sunshine, a start-up that uses A.I. on your address book. (CNBC)

Best of the rest

  • A memoir by President Trump would sell well — but publishers are wary. President Barack Obama’s set a record for first-day sales. (NYT, AP)

  • Documents and interviews show how Prince Andrew of Britain helped a Luxembourg bank woo dictators. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

  • “Banks Are the ‘New Medici’ When It Comes to Art Collecting” (Bloomberg)

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