DealBook Online Summit Live Updates: Killer Mike, Ursula Burns and Robert Smith on Race and Corporate America
At 2 p.m. Eastern, the rapper and activist Killer Mike; Ursula Burns, the former chief of Xerox; and Robert Smith of Vista Equity Partners will debate how business leaders can create lasting benefits for underserved communities.
Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games, the maker of the wildly popular video game Fortnite, spoke to DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin on Wednesday about his battle with Apple’s App Store and the future of interactivity and gaming.
Mr. Sweeney said Apple’s 30 percent commission on sales in the App Store was anticompetitive behavior that hurt both developers and consumers. He added that everyone had a responsibility to push back, comparing the struggle to protests during the civil rights movement.
“When a contract goes outside the bounds of the law as Apple is doing and has such a negative and pervasive impact on society, it’s everybody’s duty to fight,” Mr. Sweeney said.
On Wednesday, Apple announced that it was reducing its commission in the App Store for small businesses to 15 percent from 30 percent.
“That’s a fantastic change for all these small developers,” Mr. Sweeney said. “Who it’s not awesome for is consumers.”
He also talked about the future of interconnectivity and how computers were increasingly used as tools to connect people to real-time social experiences, a trend that the pandemic has accelerated.
“It’s not just like you playing this game as a solitary experience,” Mr. Sweeney said. “It’s you and your friends doing something together, just like my generation would go in the woods and play in real forts and this generation is now building virtual forts.”
In response to concerns that children may be addicted to Fortnite, Mr. Sweeney objected to the term “addiction.”
“Addiction is a serious problem,” he said. “If you look at what happens with a heroin or meth addict, I would not apply that term to people who love playing games and sometimes play them more than they ought.”
He added: “If that’s the case, then I’m addicted to programming, and my mom was addicted to gardening.”
Instead, he said, games like Fortnite can be a “healthy social experience” that has replaced in-person meetings for some people. He rejected the comparison of “mindless” video games like Pac-Man to Fortnite, which he said offered players social experiences and opportunities to build things in its “creative mode.”
“These are developing a new generation of diplomats and businesspeople and tech workers and artists and programmers,” he said. “The skills they’re developing there are real in a lot of cases.”
Ruth Porat, the finance chief of Google and Alphabet, said Wednesday that patience was waning for Silicon Valley to fully address its challenges with gender and racial equity.
There’s a “greater level of impatience” in Silicon Valley, she told DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the DealBook Online Summit. “If you can make the kinds of transformative changes through technology that we have, why can’t we do it on this issue that we hold so dear to us?”
But unlike many of the technological problems that Silicon Valley innovators seek to solve, diversity is a societal issue, she said. It takes time for people to embrace change.
“That is not acceptable, and that is not an excuse,” she said. “So we’re trying to break through it in every way we can.” She listed addressing unconscious bias and encouraging alliances among the efforts to move the issue forward.
“It is a personal responsibility,” she said. “It’s moving too slowly.”
Still, Ms. Porat said there had been progress made since her days at Morgan Stanley, which she joined in 1987 before rising through the ranks to chief financial officer in 2010.
At the time, she said, Morgan Stanley was the “best of the best” when it came to addressing diversity. But more people are talking about the issue these days, she said, adding there was an increasing view that building a more diverse workplace was “not just the right thing to do,” but that it would make for “stronger, sharper business decisions.”
The most important way to ensure that diversity improvements stick, she said, is to create steps to put words into action. That is on top of other efforts, like including women and other underrepresented groups in positions of leadership, she added.
“If you don’t have policies and programs, the words are nice, but you’ve got to put money behind what you’re doing.”
In this era of upheaval — from social injustices to the fraught politics to the pandemic — it’s more important than ever for business leaders to speak up, even on issues not directly related to their companies, said Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase.
“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 told DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the DealBook Online Summit on Wednesday.
Speaking personally, Mr. Dimon added, “I’m a patriot before I’m the C.E.O. of JPMorgan.”
It is that attitude — which he said he shared with other chief executives, like Doug McMillon of Walmart — that has led corporate America to call for unity after the contentious 2020 election, to speak out on erasing the racial equality gap and to demand that political leaders help out ordinary Americans.
“If you travel out of Washington, D.C. and New York City, there is deep, deep, deep frustration” with political leaders, particularly over stimulus negotiations. When asked how he would handle the talks, in which Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked, Mr. Dimon declared, “You need to just split the baby and move on. This is childish behavior by our politicians.”
(Would he himself be interested in taking a more active role by seeking to become Treasury secretary, as some have speculated? He demurred: “I love what I do, and I have never coveted the job ever. I love my country, so I will help anyone who has that job.”)
Other issues that Mr. Dimon addressed:
On the racial justice protests that sprang up this year in the wake of killings of Black Americans by the police, Mr. Dimon said, “Covid and the murder of George Floyd pointed out something we already knew: That there’s been inequality in America, and the racial part is even worse.”
On China, Mr. Dimon said that he wouldn’t have started a trade war with Beijing, but he believed that President Trump at least “got them to the table.” Businesses, Mr. Dimon added, “can help lead the conversation” and move the relationship to a better place.
On the nation’s global leadership role, Mr. Dimon had a somber assessment. “We are not good at thoughtful, long-term policy,” he said. A key part of maintaining the United States’s economic strength: “If we don’t get it right, it would be bad for the world for the next 50 years.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday urged the incoming Biden administration to use all the “tools in their toolbox” to push through Democrats’ priorities — even as the party gave up seats in the House and remains at risk of being unable to take the Senate.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “won on the most progressive agenda that a general election candidate has ever run on in the United States of America,” the senator told DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin. She cited some down-ballot victories, calling out Florida’s vote to raise the minimum wage and Arizona’s vote to raise taxes on higher incomes to fund education.
The election, she said, “is a mandate to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to do the things we can do.” She pressed for the cancellation of student loan debt, calling it the “single biggest stimulus we could add to the economy.” Ms. Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, also urged the incoming administration to invest in child care — “because we can do it” — and to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for employees of government contractors.
She said the pledge that Mr. Biden made to not raise taxes on those making less than $400,000 a year “makes sense.”
To achieve the Democrats’ aims, Senator Warren urged Mr. Biden to use “all of the tools — and I mean all of the tools of their administration,” which she noted included both executive orders and agency actions.
Ms. Warren, who has been floated as a potential Treasury secretary, declined to comment on whether she wants a role in the administration. However, she said she believed that “personnel is policy.”
“I think it is really important that we have people in this administration who understand the magnitude of the health crisis that we face, who understand the magnitude of the economic crisis — that is right behind that health crisis. And who have a real ambition for making the federal government work for people making it meet the moment.”
Ms. Warren indicated there might be room for Wall Street in the administration — even as a debate rages over what the limits should be on finance’s role in Democratic governance for the next four years.
“Remember, I hired people whose background was on Wall Street when I set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” she said. “The question is: What does your overall team look like? It is important to have a team that brings a lot of different perspectives.”
She also expressed concern over the transition process, as President Trump refuses to concede the election and tries to challenge the results in court.
“The Republicans who are not calling him out — that is dangerous,” she said. “This is not a game — people around the world, people who would do us harm, are watching what’s happening.”
Watch the full session:
On Day 2 of the DealBook Online Summit, we will hear from more top leaders from business, policy and culture on the world’s economic challenges, innovation in the age of Big Tech and the role of corporations in addressing racial inequality.
Here is the lineup (all times Eastern):
9:15 a.m.-10 a.m.
Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase
The chief executive of the nation’s largest bank will speak about the vast challenges facing the economy, and the measures that need to be taken to bring the United States together.
10 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
Senator Elizabeth Warren
One the most prominent progressives in the Senate, with a track record of aggressively trying to rein in Wall Street, Ms. Warren discusses the post-election outlook for the intersection of business and policy. Note: The stream of this conversation was rescheduled from yesterday, because of technical difficulties.
11 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Ruth Porat of Alphabet and Google
The chief financial officer of the search giant will give an inside view of Big Tech in 2020, the future of remote work and navigating internal and external policy debates.
12 P.m.-12:40 P.M.
Tim Sweeney of Epic Games
The founder of the maker of Fortnite will explain the future of interactivity and his battle to foster innovation while competing with larger rivals.
2 P.m.-3 P.M.
The rapper and activist Killer Mike, Robert Smith of Vista Equity Partners and Ursula Burns, former chief of Xerox
This panel of leaders from the worlds of business and culture will discuss corporate pledges on racial equality and debate how business leaders can create lasting benefits for underserved communities.
4 P.m.-4:30 P.M.
The N.B.A.’s LeBron James and Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
The N.B.A. star and the top civil rights leader discuss the recent election and the More than a Vote campaign, led by Mr. James, which opened up sports arenas for the first time as polling locations, making voting more accessible.
In the first day of the DealBook Online Summit, the speakers had plenty of newsworthy things to share. Here are the highlights:
‘We’re all in this together’
America’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the pandemic was a long-dreaded nightmare, and he called for a nationwide, non-politicized approach to public health measures. “I’m going to try my best to get the people in this country to realize we’re all in this together,” he said. “We’ve got to get out of this together.”
‘I can learn from my mistakes’
Masayoshi Son, the founder and chief executive of SoftBank, has made billions from some prescient bets over the years, but he didn’t shy away from discussing a few of his biggest mistakes. Namely, he turned down an opportunity to buy 30 percent of Amazon before its I.P.O. and poured billions into WeWork. “I would rather accept my stupidity and my ignorance — my bad decisions — so that I can learn from my mistakes,” he said.
‘It may have been important for the president, but not for us’
In a panel discussion, Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, said that announcing a vaccine before the election was always an “artificial deadline,” and said he wasn’t pressured by President Trump to his desired timeline. Turning to the widespread resistance to public health measures in the United States, Bill Gates said he “wouldn’t have expected mask wearing to become controversial,” and put some of the blame on the Trump administration. Heidi Larson, the director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, said there was “a lot of resistance to the idea of control” when it comes to following public health advice, especially in this “hyper-uncertain time.”
For more coverage of yesterday’s session, see our live briefing.