Top executives from nearly 50 companies are advising President Donald Trump on domestic policies related to the economy, giving them extraordinary access to the president that's unavailable to most of corporate America, much less the public at large. Yet as many in the nation have risen up against the president’s executive order barring the entry of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the leaders from most of these companies have remained silent on the president’s executive order to impose a 90-day moratorium on the arrival of all non-U.S. citizens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan. The order also bars refugees from anywhere in the world from U.S. entry for at least 120 days.
The executive action was met with massive protests at many U.S. airports over the weekend and, in response to constitutional challenges from civil rights lawyers, judges in at least four states have temporarily halted part of the president’s executive order, but the issue is far from resolved.
Dozens of other leaders of publicly traded and privately managed companies have been named to two key private-sector presidential advisory boards: the Strategic and Policy Forum, a group of 18 company leaders who are advising the president on economic policies, and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, a similar group of 25 executives that's focused on counseling the president on jobs.
Although the leaders of major Silicon Valley companies, including Microsoft, Alphabet, Apple and Facebook, have voiced concerns about Trump’s executive order, only those in about one out of every five companies with this special access to Trump have outwardly opposed his executive order. Their choice to remain quiet shows just how much corporate America would rather not get on the bad side of the new administration.
Some of the harshest criticism in the private sector came from tech industry big shots who aren’t part of Trump’s circle of private-sector advisers.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings declared the executive order “un-American,” while Twitter’s Jack Dorsey said its humanitarian and economic impact is “real and upsetting.” Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield called nearly everything Trump has done as president “gratuitously . . . evil” and eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, an Iranian-American, labeled Trump’s action “simple bigotry.”
Most notably silent have been the leaders of privately held companies within Trump’s corporate entourage of advisers, from global investment firms BlackRock, Blackstone and Global Infrastructure Partners; global advisory firms Patomak Global Partners and Boston Consulting Group; Palantir, the secretive Palo Alto intelligence contractor co-founded by PayPal co-founder and close Trump confidant Peter Thiel; and Oracle, which sells border-control technology.
The CEO of the Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic who participates on Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, has not only been silent about the immigration ban but is also planning a fundraiser at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club despite the fact at least one of its doctors, a Sudanese national, having been caught by Trump’s immigration order, according to the online science and health news site Stat.
Here are the responses of 11 other companies that reacted to the travel ban with either a corporate statement or a message from an executive who attended Trump 's Dec. 14 tech industry meeting or who sits on either of his advisory panels. Some have outwardly declared opposition to the order; others have been less overt:
In a letter to employees obtained by Bloomberg Technology, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet subsidiary Google, advised employees traveling abroad who might be impacted by the immigration order to get back to the U.S. as soon as possible. "We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so,” he wrote. More than 100 Google employees are affected by the order, the letter said.
Amazon didn’t publicly denounce Trump’s executive order. The company distributed an internal memo, which was obtained by The Verge, to its global staffers advising them what to do if they’re from one of the seven countries on the list. As of early Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has been silent.
CEO Tim Cook sent a letter to his employees, obtained by the website MacRumors, saying Trump’s executive order is “not a policy that we support” and that Apple has reached out to the White House to “explain the negative effect” that strict anti-immigration policy has on the company.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook chairman and CEO, said he was “concerned” about the executive action, explaining how it would have affected his great-grandparents. He also praised Trump for comments the president has made suggesting he would help Dreamers, immigrants who were brought to the country at a young age.
In an internal memo released to Reuters, Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor, and CEO Mark Fields said, "We do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company.”
GE CEO Jeff Immelt posted a statement on the company’s internal blog Sunday night, pledging that his company would “work with the U.S. Administration to strive to find the balance between the need for security and the movement of law abiding people.” GE is one of the U.S.' biggest industrial conglomerates and has a large number of projects worldwide. The company does a significant amount of business in the region targeted by Trump’s ban list and has potential oil and gas deals in Iran and a $328 million electric grid project in Iraq. GE is represented on both the Strategic and Policy Forum and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative.
Like other companie, IBM didn’t issue a public denouncement but showed Fortune magazine an internal memo from the company’s human resources chief, Diane Gherson, which stopped short of any outright criticism of the immigration order. The memo states that the company seeks to balance the "flow of people, ideas, commerce and information with the needs of security, everywhere in the world.”
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The nation’s top bank by assets issued an internal memo to employees that echoed sentiments expressed by others that it appreciate efforts by the government to make the country safe: “We are grateful for the hard work and sacrifices made to keep our country safe,” the memo obtained by Business Insider reads. “At the same time, we understand that our country, economy and wellbeing are strengthened by the rich diversity of the world around us.”
CEO Satya Nadella posted his company’s internal memo on his LinkedIn page, stating that at least 76 employees are affected by the order. “We believe that immigration laws can and should protect the public without sacrificing people’s freedom of expression or religion,” the letter said. “And we believe in the importance of protecting legitimate and law-abiding refugees whose very lives may be at stake in immigration proceedings.”
CEO Elon Musk said on his official Twitter account that the people affected by Trump’s executive order “don’t deserve to be rejected.”
Travis Kalanick, CEO and co-founder of Uber, said on Facebook that the executive action “will impact many innocent people” and that he would bring up the issue at the first meeting of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum that's scheduled for early February. Kalanick was criticized widely on social media for not using stronger language against Trump’s action, and because Uber ignored a solidarity strike by New York City taxi drivers, who refused to pick up passengers from John F. Kennedy International Airport amid protests about foreign nationals who had been detained there by immigration authorities. Kalanick took to Facebook again on Sunday providing more details on a program to assist Uber drivers by the “wrong and unjust immigration ban.”
As of midday Monday, the following companies whose top executives sit on either of Trump's private-sector advisory boards had not made statements on the travel ban: 3M, Arconic, Boeing, Campbell Soup, Caterpillar, Cisco, Corning, Dana, Dell Technologies, Dow Chemical, General Motors, Harris, IHS Markit, International Paper, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Merk, Newell Brand, Nucor, PepsiCo, Timken Company, Under Armour, United Technologies, U.S. Steel, Wal-Mart Stores, Walt Disney Company and Whirlpool.