Remember that guy who walked around for weeks after the election with a pair of giant headphones and a sign on his chest that read “I don't know who won and don't want to. Please don't tell me”? Apparently, half of the corporate America is that guy.
On Thursday the Wall Street Journal published an analysis on the 242 S&P 500 earnings calls that have taken place so far this year, checking for direct or implicit references to the new president. Such a mention was made by about of half these companies, including Dow Chemical (trade!), AT&T (tax reform!) and Mastercard (regulation!). “Much of the discussion this earnings season has centered on President Donald Trump,” WSJ reported.
Given Trump's proposed policies, a grab bag of Republican fantasies and protectionist nightmares, it's no surprise his name came up so much. But the real head-scratcher is what's going on with the executives who didn't mention Trump.
Granted, not every company has factories in Mexico. But that's not the extent of Trump's potential impact. His way of doing business represents a sea change in the relationship between business and government. Tweetingthreats at individualcompanies, using government contracts as leverage for publicity stunts, forsaking the free market – these should all concern the average executive.
More to the point, Trump lives on seeing his name in print, and if he sees a brand name near his in a generally positive context, all the better. See, eg:
An earnings call is a great opportunity to generate headlines in the business press, so why not dispense some bland praise for the Donald? Goodwill with a president who keeps an enemies list is an asset that delivers big returns – as many seem to have noticed: “Most references to the new president were full of praise, and criticism was muted,” WSJ said.
Which is all to say shareholders in companies that failed to give Trump airtime should be asking some tough questions.