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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Politics and Religion: President Trump at a National Prayer Breakfast

Politics and religion intermeshed can be a nasty business. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, witnessed every venue of his planned tour in Europe cancel because Franklin had “called Islam ‘evil,’ attacked laws increasing rights for transgender people, and told his followers that the legalization of same-sex marriage was orchestrated by Satan.”[1] Although criticizing another religion is religious in nature, turning to laws renders the attack political too. Although Franklin Graham may have assumed that many of his co-religionists would agree with him both in religious and political terms, wading into controversial political matters risks alienating people who are or would otherwise be religious followers. Even the willingness to traverse into the political realm may not be liked by some religionists, whether followers or not, especially if the incursion is into a controversy. Some co-religionists may agree with the distinctly religious belief, yet hold dissimilar political views. Such distance created between religionists can weaken a religious leader’s credibility and even following in the religious domain. Politicians dragging their respective religious faiths into the political domain can also be problematic, though authentic applications can pay off even if there is a cost politically. The incursion of Christianity at the end of U.S. President Trump’s trial in the Senate and as he took a victory lap can demonstrate the complexities of religion distended into another domain.



[1] Rob Picheta, “Evangelist Preacher Franklin Graham Planned a Seven-City UK Tour. All Seven Venues Have Dropped Him,” CNN.com, February 6, 2020(accessed same day).

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Tension between Wall Street and Main Street: A Case beyond the Reach of Corporate Social Responsibility

In October 2011, Gerald Seib wrote that political and economic pressures in the wake of the financial crisis were “pushing business leaders into the public cross hairs.”[1] I submit that the very existence of the largest American banks was becoming an issue. In such a case in which a gulf between business and society is so fundamental or deep, corporate social responsibility programs do not suffice and may even backfire. While it is normal for the norms and values of a business sector to differ from those of the wider whole (i.e., society), it is uncommon for a rupture to be so deep that corporate marketing and CSR are not sufficient business responses. I submit that in such cases and where corporations have a lot of power over government officials, CEOs extend their toolset to government to fill in the trench. The "Occupy Wall Street" protests is a case in point. 

The full essay is at "Wall Street and Society Diverge at the 'Occupy Wall Street' Protests." 

1. Gerald F. Seib, “Populist Anger Over Economy Carries Risks for Big Business,” The Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2011. More generally, see Skip Worden, Essays on the Financial Crisis.


Bank Bonuses and Dividends After the Financial Crisis: On the Power of Banks in European and American Government and Society

Dividends are typically based on how much a bank (or company, moreover) has profited, less whatever capital is needed from the profit. Similarly, bonuses are based, at least theoretically, on how the managers and the nonsupervisory employees alike perform as well as how the bank performs. In their respective ways of shoring up banks amid the financial crisis of 2008, the E.U. and U.S. differed on how easy it would be for banks to pay dividends and bonuses, as well as to have access to governmental funding. These differences reflect both the relative power of the financial sector in the governmental sector and the cultural attitudes toward business.

The full essay is at "Bank Bonuses and Dividends After the Financial Crisis." 

Monday, February 3, 2020

CSR and Corporate Governance Reform: An Opporunity for BlackRock as an Activist Shareholder

In 2019, BlackRock’s management and board publically fired two executives in the Hong Kong office for breaching company rules on dating subordinates. The firings demonstrated to employees that the company would enforce its employee policies and sent the message that employees would be “free to point out problems in the workplace.”[1] This would not be so extraordinarily significant but for the fact that BlackRock is the “world’s largest money manager with $7.4 trillion under management,” which enables the company, through the funds it runs, to be “one of the five largest shareholders in nearly every corporation in the S&P 500.”[2] So BlackRock “can cast votes and pressure boardrooms to effect change.”[3] The company would be hypocritical in using its power as a major stockholder to get managements to have and enforce good workplace policies if the company were not doing so itself. From the standpoint of self-regulatory capitalism in society, BlackRock could make a significant contribution far beyond improving workplace policies.

The full essay is at "CSR and Corporate Governance Reform."


[1] Dawn Lim, Steven Russolillo, and Jing Yang, “At BlackRock, Public Firings, Overseas Probe Send Message About Office Misbehavior,” The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2020.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.