Citizen CEO

The WEF's Corporate Moguls Debate Their Role as Unelected World Leaders

When asked by Noreena Hertz, author of The Silent Takeover, whether they could support greater global regulation to preserve the environment and raise labor standards, the roll call went something like this: David H. Komansky, CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co.: "I am not a devotee of greater government regulation . . . but there should be some kind of global forum to help sovereign nations regulate these issues." Gates: "It's a slippery slope. We don't want protectionism." Taizo Nishimuro, chairman of Toshiba: "It's complicated." Louis Schweitzer, CEO of Renault: "Yes, I would support this." And what do the CEOs think defines the good future business leader? Vision, thinking outside the box, learning English (or a second language), spending at least one year outside one's home country, having a good sense of how one's government decides policy.

Thus replenished with notions of good citizenship, the CEOs moved on to Super Bowl parties. By Sunday evening, Bono was jogging around a heart-shaped stage in New Orleans singing "Beautiful Day" during halftime; the president of Poland had said he'd rather be in Davos, Switzerland, where the WEF is usually held; more than 200 protesters had been arrested; and former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was refusing to testify before Congress. Enron may prove what critics and skeptics most fear, that tight ties between CEOs and government officials—the very bonds fostered at the WEF—can ultimately rob a worker of a job and a retirement plan, further widening the gap between rich and poor. Kenneth Lay, once ubiquitous at these meetings, has since been disinvited.

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