First, these are the actual CEOs who are present today:
- Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET)
- Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox Corp. (NYSE: XRX)
- Kenneth I. Chenault, CEO of American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP)
- David Cote, CEO of Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON)
- Michael Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
- Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE)
- Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE: DOW)
- Robert McDonald, CEO of Proctor & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG)
- Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F)
- Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE: PEP)
- Ginni Rometty, CEO of International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE: IBM)
- John Watson, CEO of Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX)
Here is a list of CEOs who should have been present which are not:
Why Stephen Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) is not represented over Mr. Bertolini of Aetna is a mystery. UnitedHealth’s equity market value is roughly the same as the next 4 major carriers combined and that includes Aetna. So far, Obamacare has really only targeted health insurers when you consider the business model changes on top of the price caps and business parameters. Now that the insurers are on board, if the administration wants this healthcare reform to really work they need to get more pointed on how to effectively police hospitals, care facilities, drug companies, medical device makers, and others in the food chain for obvious expense management.
Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) should have been included. The trading losses from the London Whale took away Dimon’s ability to communicate as well in public, but Dimon is still king of the major banks. To include the CEO of American Express over Dimon is an odd-ball move. The problem is that Dimon and other bank CEOs are just not favored at all by the administration. Wall Street was effectively locked out of this meeting, something which is a huge mistake considering that the run for office is now over. Dimon has supposedly been communicated with since the election, but this just makes no sense at all.
Where is Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) on this list? Buffett was a staunch Obama supporter and he has been a staunch supporter of taxing the wealthy, but he is still viewed as the model of success. For him to not be in this group just seems odd. Maybe it is because these other CEOs can’t get away with the colorful analogies of history are not believed. Still, the public trusts and admires Mr. Buffett for the most part and he could at least be a buffer if today’s meeting did not go as well as the public may have hoped.
James Rogers of Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) should have been represented by CEO James Rogers, or at least another utility should have been represented. The utilities are going to be more heavily regulated ahead, they have already had to spend countless billions of dollars either retooling or shutting down plants, and they sit right in the middle of the dividend taxation issue. To not have one of the top utilities represented just feels like a “take the regulation and shut up” approach even if the #2 oil company is representing business today.
Does it seem odd that there is not one single telecom or consumer electronics CEO on this list? Maybe these guys couldn’t find a suit to wear. Still, this is ludicrous. IBM does not sell computers anymore and Wal-Mart is not exactly thought of as the greatest destination in the world to go buy consumer electronics even if it is the top broad retail destination in America. Should the technology leader have been Steve Balmer of Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Tim Cook of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Paul Otellini of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), or someone else? The answer is YES to any of them.
JON C. OGG