Beyond Pulling Donations


Many business leaders have told me they are deeply concerned about incidents of harassment against Jewish students that have taken place at and around universities like Columbia and appear to be increasing.

Inside corner offices, there has been a lot of hand-wringing about the most blatant examples, like antisemitic signs and chants or the assault of an Israeli student. But there has been little action from corporations, which have a synergistic relationship with the schools where they recruit employees.

Some executives are privately pondering what they can do. The most common course of action so far has been to pull back on individual donations. The New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, for example, said this week that he was “no longer comfortable supporting Columbia University.”

But businesses have other levers that affect universities, and some of those levers would undoubtedly put more pressure on universities to take action against antisemitism.

Here’s one out-of-the-box thought experiment: Most businesses scrutinize their vendors quite carefully and maintain approved lists of vendors whose policies align with their own. Companies could scrutinize universities, a main source of their talent, as they would any other vendor. They could tell universities that they won’t hire their students unless the schools take decisive action to stem antisemitism.

After all, no company in this day and age would use an executive search firm with employees who openly engaged in antisemitism.

To be clear, companies would need to define antisemitism and the satisfactory actions to mitigate it — currently both topics of fierce debate.

And it is important to differentiate between peaceful protesters against Israel’s war in Gaza (who include many Jewish students, and who say they are being unfairly painted as antisemitic to distract from their objectives) and people who are calling for the death of Jews, harassing students and creating an unsafe environment. A decision to stop hiring all students from a particular school would inevitably punish some who have nothing to do with the worst offenders on campus.

But these corporate actions would put real pressure — including the pressure that would inevitably come from those uninvolved students — on college administrations to police blatant antisemitism.

There is another pressure point that Wall Street, private equity and venture capital firms may uniquely have to influence action against antisemitism on university campuses: They could threaten to stop managing their endowments. Most elite universities in America rely on venture capital firms for their relatively high investment returns.

Many university endowments send questionnaires and conduct due diligence on the internal policies of the Wall Street firms — examining their D.E.I. policies, for example. What would happen if the Wall Street firms also sent such questionnaires to the universities before deciding to work with them as clients?

“That’s a really interesting thought experiment,” said Charlie Eaton, the author of “Bankers in the Ivory Tower: The Troubling Rise of Financiers in U.S. Higher Education” and an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Merced. He said that such a decision would most likely have a big impact on the decision-making of universities, but would also raise big questions about “who is able to exercise what kind of power” in our economy.

Businesses may be unlikely to rush into formally patrolling universities’ policies by adopting either of these theoretical maneuvers, but they might amp up the pressure in some other way through their informal preferences. As Darren Woods, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, said of campus protests in an interview with CNBC this week: “If that action or those protests reflect the values of the campuses where they’re doing it, we wouldn’t be interested in recruiting students from those campuses.” — Andrew Ross Sorkin

The F.T.C. banned noncompete agreements. The agency voted to stop companies from using the contracts, arguing that they inhibit innovation and competition and that they are bad for workers. The decision sent a shock wave across Wall Street, with companies and their advisers looking for other ways to keep staff, including expanding partnerships or L.L.C. structures and offering other incentives.

The mining giant BHP made a $39 billion takeover bid for its rival Anglo American. The proposal by the world’s largest mining company was all about getting more access to copper. The metal is a key component in the new energy economy, used in electric vehicles, infrastructure and more. Anglo American rejected the unsolicited offer, which could lead to a higher bid.

President Biden signed a bill that would force TikTok to split from its Chinese owner. The measure set the clock ticking on a potential sale by ByteDance to divest the video platform within 270 days or face a ban in the U.S. ByteDance denied a report that it was looking to sell the company.

Tech giants reported earnings, and A.I. dominated. Meta kicked off tech earnings season with its best-ever first quarter. But investors sent shares tumbling on worries over the high cost of its spending on artificial intelligence. A day later, Microsoft and Alphabet reported strong results and a similar commitment to A.I., but shareholders seemed more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and both stocks rose.

For years, Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive, has been laying into one of his personal peeves, the health care system. Among his beefs: Despite rising medical costs, many wealthy countries are making few, if any, gains in life expectancy.

Ek has left plenty of clues over the years that once he got Spotify on the right track — this week, the streaming giant posted a record first-quarter profit after layoffs last year — health care could be his next act. “I was like adamant to fix it,” Ek told DealBook.

That next act is Neko Health, a start-up that says its full-body scans can help people detect disease sooner and live longer. Ek is a principal backer and co-founder of the company, along with another Swedish entrepreneur, Hjalmar Nilsonne. (It’s only the second time since Spotify that Ek has put the founder hat back on; the other was with his investment fund, Prima Materia.)

Ek and Nilsonne spoke to DealBook’s Bernhard Warner about their ambitions for Neko Health last month. Warner also underwent a scan. Read the full story and see what the procedure entails here.

Neko Health has been doing brisk business in its first year in Stockholm. But it is relatively unknown outside Sweden. Last year, it closed a $64 million funding round, led by the venture capital firms Lakestar, Atomico and General Catalyst, to expand to more markets. The first: London, this summer.

The full-body scan market is crowded, with start-ups like Prenuvo and Ezra in the U.S. attracting investors and social media buzz. The concept has also faced plenty of skepticism. Medical professionals say proactive screening technologies are not proven to achieve better outcomes for patient health or longevity. And the verdict is still out on the business model.

“I would be super happy if this turned out to make me no money, but we actually solved real issues in the world for real people,” Ek said.

Neko Health’s twist: It wants to make full-body scans as affordable and routine as an annual checkup. Its scan costs roughly $230, which is cheaper than most competitors’, including Prenuvo’s $2,499 full-body M.R.I. scan.

The company’s founders acknowledge a slew of challenges. Regulatory hurdles are arduous, and the emergent preventative health care sector is still contending with increased skepticism in the wake of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes’s failed blood-testing start-up that promised to usher in “a new era of preventative health.”

“Blowouts” like Theranos, Mr. Ek said, risk undermining the public “trust in all of the subsequent companies that are coming.”

The metric Ek is most proud of: The company says the scans have helped patients detect life-threatening issues early. “You can actually save lives with this,” Ek said, adding, “and we have.”

Xi Jinping is the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. Understanding how he thinks is crucial for anyone trying to understand China’s long-term strategic ambition.

In “The Political Thought of Xi Jinping,” Steve Tsang and Olivia Cheung, China experts at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, examine the president’s writings, talks and statements to paint a picture of how he sees the world. DealBook spoke to Tsang about the book. This interview has been condensed and edited.

What is “Xi Jinping thought”?

Xi Jinping thought is essentially about making China great again, both domestically and externally, by 2050. It’s based on a mythical conception of restoring China to its historic place at the center of the world.

How does this connect to Xi’s approach to the rest of the world?

Xi wants to change the liberal international order by capturing institutions, like the United Nations, and transforming how they function to make them more China-friendly at the minimum or Sinocentric at the maximum.

It also helps to explain why he is so hard-line on issues like Taiwan. From his perspective, China cannot be made great again without taking Taiwan back one way or another. And it will need to happen by 2050.

What does this mean for business?

Xi is not against the private sector or foreign multinationals per se. The question is whether they are serving China’s national interest or not. If they are, terrific. When they cease to do so, they can sink or swim.

For example, Tesla. When China wanted to crack the electric vehicle sector, Tesla was given special concessions to build its giga-factory in Shanghai. Once Chinese companies could compete with Tesla — and arguably outcompete Tesla — the company wasn’t granted any more special concessions.

Are western C.E.O.s naïve when it comes to China?

No. What I would say is that they make the cardinal mistake of underestimating the Chinese and their Chinese competitors. When Tesla went into China, did Elon Musk seriously think that BYD was going to give him a run for his money? No. It’s an incapacity to understand the resourcefulness of Chinese competitors.

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you Monday.

We’d like your feedback. Please email thoughts and suggestions to

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here