CEOs Confront Anti-Capitalist Rhetoric

Another CEO of a big American company has spoken up about the charge that he and his employees are “destroying the moral fabric” of America. Lowell McAdam of Verizon, in a post at LinkedIn, answered the charges (also addressed recently by General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt) that his company doesn’t pay the appropriate amount of tax, doesn’t invest in the U.S., and, specifically in Verizon’s case, is trying to force inappropriate concessions on the unionized portion of its workforce.

Today – as we have over our long history – Verizon provides good jobs for tens of thousands of Americans. We’re generating the profitable growth that allows us to invest in America and innovate for the future. More than that, we offer our employees the chance to contribute something vitally important to customers, businesses and the society as a whole by building the country’s best networks and delivering great communications services.

But in return, we’re asking our represented employees to look at the facts and engage in an honest conversation about what needs to be done to ensure these opportunities will be around for future generations. We need our employees to partner with us in creating a sustainable, competitive and, yes, profitable company.

To me, that’s just the moral thing to do.

These recent examples of high-profile corporate leaders confronting lazy, unfair rhetoric from the political world is heartening. More business leaders should be responding directly when their critics get the facts wrong and malign a firm’s reputation. But this debate goes further than just setting the record straight. Many of these “accusations” would be misplaced even if they were true. The moral legitimacy of a firm doesn’t rest on whether it invests 90 percent of its profits back into domestic operations, or 10 percent. No company should become the object of dark hints from politicians because they decide to hire call center workers in Pakistan instead of Poughkeepsie, and they definitely shouldn’t get moved to the top of the list for government investigation because their success conflicts with someone else’s political ideology.

Labor unions and activist groups can call a corporation’s managers names all day long, and they have a perfect right to do so. But government office holders and those who aspire to join them on the taxpayer payroll have a responsibility to use their authority with fair and equitable discretion. Maligning a company’s conduct for public popularity—especially when he or she has the most basic facts wrong—deserves the strongest possible condemnation.