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Ford, Goldman CEOs Criticise Trump Travel Curbs

Equity markets sold off amid uncertainty over what broader impact the travel ban and the disruption it created could have.

Reuters

Updated:January 31, 2017, 12:57 PM IST
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Ford, Goldman CEOs Criticise Trump Travel Curbs
Ford Logo. (Photo: Reuters)
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The chief executives of Goldman Sachs Group and Ford Motor Co joined the criticism of President Donald Trump's order to halt arrivals from several Muslim-majority countries, as equity markets fell and the dollar slipped on Monday.

The initial response over the weekend from U.S. corporate leaders to Trump's order curtailing travel from seven Muslim-majority countries had been fragmented and muted outside the technology sector.

However, on Monday, after a weekend of confusion over how the travel restrictions would be enforced, more companies and unions went public with concerns, although most avoided direct attacks on Trump's policy.

United Parcel Service Inc, for example, said it "supports policies that enable the legal movement of people across borders, while also understanding the need to protect national security."

Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein was the first major Wall Street CEO to weigh in against the administration's travel ban. Other financial industry leaders followed on Monday with expressions of concern about the travel order.

"This is not a policy we support, and I would note that it has already been challenged in federal court, and some of the order has been enjoined at least temporarily," Blankfein said in a voicemail to employees on Sunday. If the temporary freeze became permanent, he said, it could create "disruption" for the bank and its staff, according to a transcript seen by Reuters.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Chief Executive Mark Fields said in a statement to employees that the company does not support what it called a new U.S. travel ban.

"We do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company," they said, adding that Ford is not aware of any employees directly affected by the policy.

General Motors Co's head of human resources told employees in a memo that a few GM employees are from countries affected by the travel order, and added, “at General Motors, we value and respect individual differences.”

Equity markets sold off amid uncertainty over what broader impact the travel ban and the disruption it created could have. The dollar fell more than 1 percent against the Japanese yen.

Trump has focused on the auto industry to promote more manufacturing jobs in industrial states that were critical to his electoral college victory. He met with the heads of the Detroit Three automakers, including Fields, last week.

Ford's situation illustrates the balancing act for companies in many sectors. Ford - like Wall Street banks and other big manufacturers - has much to gain from working with Trump to overhaul the federal tax code and revamp regulation. Fields has cited those potential gains in explaining Ford's decisions to cancel investments in Mexico that Trump had attacked.

Fields met twice with Trump last week to talk about economic issues. Trump harshly criticised Ford during the campaign for moving some production to Mexico, but he has praised the automaker in recent weeks for announcing new U.S. investments.

However, Ford has employees who could be affected by immigration curbs and does business in countries that are majority Muslim, or whose leaders have expressed disapproval of Trump's policy. Ford is based in Dearborn, Michigan, home to one of the largest Arab-American populations in the United States.

Separately, the head of the United Auto Workers union, Dennis Williams, said on Monday the UAW "denounces any policy that judges people based on their religion or nation of origin." Williams, who represents Detroit Three factory workers, has previously supported Trump's moves to renegotiate or scrap open trade deals.

Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk asked followers to read the immigration order and propose "specific amendments." He said he would seek a consensus among members of a business advisory council that is expected to meet with President Trump this week.

In a response to a comment on his Twitter feed, Musk wrote, "There is no possibility of retraction, but there is a possibility of modification ..."

Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz took a different approach to the travel ban, saying on Sunday that the coffee shop chain planned to hire 10,000 refugees over five years in 75 countries.

The hiring efforts would start in the United States by initially focusing on individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in countries where the military has asked for such support, Schultz said.

Some big industrial companies and financial industry players stayed clear of the controversy.

The U.S. hedge fund industry was virtually silent on the immigration restrictions. Representatives for most major firms —including Bridgewater Associates, Renaissance Technologies, Millennium Management and Two Sigma Investments — did not respond to requests for comment over the weekend.

Private equity firms, including Blackstone Group LP, whose CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, chairs Trump's advisory panel of business leaders, also would not comment on the travel ban.

Fiat Chrysler Group NV, Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co declined to comment on the immigration order.

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