Today on The BradCast: If you might otherwise expect a Senior Associate Dean at Yale University's School of Business Management to be a stodgy, rightwing, so-called pro-business conservative, think again. The one joining us today, naming and shaming major international corporations for continuing to do business with Russia even after their barbaric, nearly month-long destruction of Ukraine, is anything but. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
But first up today, very quickly, what you need to know about the deadly tornado swarm that slammed Louisiana and Texas overnight. It's just the latest in an increasingly long and violent string of climate change-fueled disasters slamming both states. Desi Doyen explains what climate scientists are learning about changes in tornadic weather as our climate crisis worsens in places like her old home state of Texas which, in recent years, has faced one such costly and deadly disaster after another (as the Republicans who control the state pretend fossil fuels have nothing to do with it.) From hurricanes to flooding to cold snaps that knock out power to the recent drought and wild fires which, at least last night's storms helped, in part, to have quelled a bit for now.
Next: Where is Clarence Thomas? The wildly corrupt U.S. Supreme Court Justice was admitted to the hospital last Friday, though the Court didn't announce it until Sunday, when their statement said he was being treated with intravenous antibiotics for an "infection" and "flu-like symptoms." The Court said on Sunday that the 73-year old Thomas would be out of the hospital by Monday or Tuesday. But, as of Wednesday, the Court had no comment on his whereabouts or his condition. Hmm...That, as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced another ridiculous day of childish questioning from Republicans in her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the High Court.
Then, we're joined by Yale School of Management's Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Management Practice JEFFREY SONNENFELD for a very lively discussion of the more than 450 American and international corporations that have withdrawn partially or fully from Russia, and the smaller (but still substantive and extremely shameful) number of companies still doing business there during Putin's deadly siege on his sovereign neighbor.
Sonnenfeld and his team of colleagues and researchers at the school began by compiling a list of those companies who had pulled out of Russia shortly after Putin's invasion, and those that had yet to. That "Hall of Shame" list has since gained a great deal of public attention and, he tells us, has both helped to both encourage and shame CEOs into shutting their doors in Russia.
"We just had a session with 70 CEOs --- you're the first to know about this --- major CEOs across the face of American industry, with General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Sonnenfeld tells us. "And he did emphasize that they are working off our list. We're humbled by that, but we know that people on Wall Street and the activist community are using it" as well.
Since its initial creation, the list is now broken down into more specific categories, including companies that have announced a full "Withdrawal"; others which merely declared a "Suspension" of operations for now; those that are "Scaling Back" by reducing operations; and the two most pernicious categories of companies that are either "Buying Time" by postponing new investments while continuing substantive business or, worst of all, "Digging In" by defying all demands to leave or even reduce operations there.
While Sonnenfeld notes that the list remains "a moving target", with several companies see their rating changed even as we went to air (the fossil fuel services giant Halliburton was moved from the worst, "Digging In," to the second worst, "Buying Time" today, for example), you'll be delighted to know our friends at the rightwing dark money conglomerate Koch Industries and its crappy paper subsidiaries like Georgia-Pacific, are staying put with Team Fascist Dictator for now.
On the other hand, Sonnenfeld says that he was pleasantly surprised that a number of Big Oil companies, "not usually on the leading edge of social change," pulled out early on. But, he has a thought or two for companies like Dunkin Donuts, Nestle, Mars candy and, yes, the rightwing Koch Industries, which, for its part, says they are staying in Russia for what they describe as the "health, safety and wellbeing of all employees. Leaving, they assert, "would only put our employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good."
Koch also justified their decision by claiming they refuse to "hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them." Sonnefeld identifies that as closer to the real reason Koch doesn't want to leave. "It's so ludicrous, on every level," he tells me. "There are now millions and million of employees that used to work for Western companies" now out of work in Russia. If all of those companies pulled out, "there wouldn't be a shred of legitimacy for the government. It would make the revolution happen instantly." He argues Russia couldn't "round up fifteen million people and then figure out what to do with them because they're not working for Western companies anymore. It's ridiculous."
Even companies like McDonald's, which has at least done the right thing by shuttering its 850 stores in Russia, only gets a "B" grade on the list's second, "Suspension" category, as they continue to pay their workers there in hopes of returning. "It allows Putin and Putin supporters to say, 'This was just ceremonial, it's temporary. You don't need to worry, they're not really leaving, they'll be back.'"
When asked if the company should receive plaudits for helping to keep their from going hungry, Sonnenfeld is unimpressed. "Those 60,000 people should be out of work and in the streets. That's what people don't understand on this," he insists. "They say, 'Oh, innocent Russians aren't responsible for what Putin is doing.' Yes, they are! It's their complacency. Putin is in power, not because he is popularly elected. He rules because of this iron fist of being a murderous tyrant. To take that on you've got to go in there with warfare. If we don't want to do that, one thing we can do to help those innocent Russians is to at least get them angry to be part of a civil disobedience, to be part of a shutdown of civil society."
He cites "bloodless revolutions" elsewhere, charging that "if you freeze up the economy, then you get people angry, out on the streets, and they bring down the government. But to keep them complacent and comfortable, that does no good whatsoever."
While recognizing the lack of a free press in Russia at this point, Sonnenfeld also has little sympathy. "It's because they willingly don't want to know. It isn't just because they don't get a free press. When all their favorite brands shut down and they're out of work --- if all of these non-Russian companies say 'You're a rogue nation!' --- maybe they'll start to realize that what Putin is telling them, that he's trying to 'liberate' Ukraine, they'll realize that's not true."
As you might guess, Sonnenfeld, the author of many books and academic papers on business management, leadership, and corporate governance, has much more to say on this subject and on the many companies who have done what he sees as the right thing, as well as those he feels should be penalized by the American people for failing to do so.
You can view the list or download a searchable Excel version here. But, first, you'll want to tune in for today's very lively and colorful conversation with Sonnenfeld...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)