Trump CEO meeting to include Dimon, Fraser, Moynihan

Trump CEO meeting to include Dimon, Fraser, Moynihan
Politics

US President Donald Trump gestures as CEO of Bank of America Brian Moynihan (L) speaks during a meeting with banking leaders to discuss how the financial services industry can meet the needs of customers affected by COVID-19 at the White House in Washington, DC on March 11, 2020.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump will address some of the world’s most powerful corporate leaders on Thursday, albeit with some notable absences.

In addition to Trump, President Joe Biden’s chief of staff Jeff Zients will speak to the CEOs in Biden’s place because the president is in Italy at the G7 meeting.

A spokeswoman for the Business Roundtable said it expects “roughly” 100 of the over 200 chief executives who belong to the exclusive forum to attend its quarterly meeting in Washington on Thursday, a participation rate she described as typical.

CNBC reached out to each of the more than 200 companies whose chief executives are listed online as members of the Business Roundtable to ask whether they planned to attend Thursday’s meeting.

Only 17 would confirm whether or not the company’s CEO was attending. The rest — more than 180 companies — did not respond to emails over several days.

So here’s what we know: Out of the 17 corporate spokespeople who replied to CNBC, four said their CEOs planned to attend: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and Edison International CEO Pedro Pizarro.

Another 13 said their CEOs will not be going to see Trump and Zients speak.

Blackstone Group CEO and Trump ally Steve Schwarzman, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, Steelcase CEO Sara Armbruster, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, Morgan Stanley CEO Ted Pick and the company’s executive chairman James Gorman, and Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good are among those who will be absent from the conference, according to their company representatives.

Some of these, such as Armbruster, Good and Solomon, are not attending due to scheduling conflicts and travel. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, for instance, will reportedly be at the G7 summit in Italy.

Representatives for Woods and Bastian did not reply to questions about why their chief executives won’t be attending the meeting. Representatives for Fink and Nadella did not return requests for comment.

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The meeting’s attendee list could read like a roster of which CEOs are willing to head to Washington to hear Trump — and which are not — just weeks after his conviction in New York on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Trump’s comments to the group could also offer a split-screen comparison to what Biden said in his speech to the CEOs at a March 2022 Business Roundtable meeting he attended.

As the president campaigns for reelection, Biden is running on his administration’s record of aggressive antitrust enforcement and blanket bans on so-called junk fees that companies charge for services that don’t cost the company anything.

These policies have drawn the ire of some business leaders and left them rooting for a second Trump administration and the regulatory easing up it could bring.

Behind closed doors, however, Biden has made his own efforts to court corporate America. The president has regularly met with CEOs and industry executives to discuss the U.S. economy’s post-pandemic recovery and global standing.

Republican former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Calif., said the willingness of busy CEOs to schlep to Washington for face time with Trump was a function of the tight presidential race.

“I think [CEOs] see what everybody else sees, that he’s going to win,” McCarthy said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy: This election is more about Biden than it is about Trump

For some of the CEOs planning to attend Thursday, the choice to be there represents a shift in their attitude toward the former president. Following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, several top executives broke sharply with Trump, either publicly or privately.

Last year, Dimon told attendees at The New York Times’ DealBook conference that they should “help” Trump’s rival, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, win her primary fight against Trump.

If Haley were to do well, Dimon said, voters might have “a choice on the Republican side that might be better than Trump.” The former president responded by ripping Dimon on social media, calling him an “overrated globalist.” 

But just two months later, Dimon had changed his tune.

“Take a step back, be honest. [Trump] was kind of right about NATO, kind of right on immigration. He grew the economy quite well. Trade tax reform worked. He was right about some of China,” Dimon said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Trump has sketched out a second-term economic agenda that many economists believe could reheat inflation, a dreaded prospect for investors and consumers who have spent the past year eagerly waiting for the Federal Reserve to respond to cooling inflation by cutting interest rates.

The former president has also proposed extending his first-term tax cuts past their 2025 expiration date and imposing draconian tariffs on imports across the board, especially those coming from China.

Speaking in Davos, Dimon implied that his willingness to defend some of Trump’s policies was at least partly in order to avoid a scenario where either he, or JPMorgan Chase, ends up on the bad side of a notoriously vengeful Trump.

“I have to be prepared for both [Trump and Biden to win],” he said. “I will be prepared for both. We will deal with both.”

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