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Two dozen of America’s top CEOs convened last Friday, as it appeared that Joe Biden would become the country’s 46th President, to discuss the possibility of current President Donald Trump’s refusing to leave office, according to sources who were present for the hour-plus video call. The exchange is surprising, given that the voice of business leadership has largely been missing from the conversation around the outcome of last week’s presidential election and the President’s unproven claims of massive voter fraud and “illegal” votes.
The CEOs discussed how to collectively handle a President who refused to leave office, as Trump has indicated he may do this January, while remaining neutral with the party currently in charge, according to Yale management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who led the meeting.
The CEOs agreed, said Sonnenfeld, that the President had a right to pursue legal action around the election. “They said if that makes people feel better, it doesn’t hurt anything to let that grind through,” he said.
But, if the President’s actions began to hurt the peaceful transition of power, the group said they may take public action collectively and privately put pressure on their Republican congresspeople to speak out.
The group is set to convene again next Friday to discuss whether further action is necessary.
Sonnenfeld did not reveal the names of the CEOs but said they were from Fortune 500 companies in various fields.
CEO lobbying group Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers have also reportedly held video meetings this week to discuss how to move forward with the election results.
In a statement last Thursday, the National Association of Manufacturers urged that every vote be counted and that Americans have faith in their governmental institutions. The Business Roundtable released a statement acknowledging and congratulating Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris in their new roles. They said that the President had the right to legally challenge any results but that “there is no indication that any of these would change the outcome.”
Still, very few CEOs and business leaders have spoken out individually. On Saturday, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said that “we must respect the results of the U.S. presidential election and, as we have with every election, honor the decision of the voters and support a peaceful transition of power.”
Others who have been critical of the President, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, congratulated Biden. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who is known for his very contentious relationship with Trump, wrote that “by voting in record numbers, the American people proved again that our democracy is strong.”
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon also publicly acknowledged the results. “Congratulations to President-elect Biden and Vice President–elect Harris on their victory,” Solomon said in a statement. “We are ready to engage as they confront the important challenges of tackling the pandemic and rebuilding the economy.”
Meanwhile, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg avoided making any decisive statements.
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