President Donald Trump is expected to meet with the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, General Motors and IBM, among others today, in the first meeting of his economic advisory council. On the official agenda: issues like regulatory relief, women in the workforce and infrastructure.
But many expect the president’s controversial travel ban targeting seven majority-Muslim countries to come up. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick withdrew from the council yesterday in the face of backlash over the policy. Disney’s Bob Iger also will no longer attend the meeting, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Several CEOs on the advisory group have spoken out against the president’s executive order on immigration amid pressure from customers and employees.
But Duke professor Aaron Chatterji expects they’ll tread cautiously today.
“If there’s something that goes on in that meeting that displeases him, you might see a tweet about it,” Chatterji said. “And that could have a huge impact on the company and put the CEO in hot water.”
Chatterji, who studies CEO activism, said even if they can’t change policy, executives have a stake in pushing back.
“They’re also trying to signal to their stakeholders what they believe, and that could be equally valuable to what they’re trying to accomplish in this meeting,” Chatterji said.
That’s also risky. A public stance on contentious issues can invite boycotts.
“On the other hand, a CEO once said to me, ‘The job of a CEO is to manage risk,’ said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at PR firm Weber Shandwick.
Given Trump’s business background, Duke’s Chatterji suggests CEOs stick to economic arguments.