Quest: Microsoft's Nadella explains why CEOs must have principles

When should CEOs get involved in public policy
When should CEOs get involved in public policy

Quest's Profitable Moment

What's the role of today's CEO -- besides running their own company? Barely a week goes by without a CEO taking a stand on the controversial issue de jour; the latest being the row over American football players protesting by kneeling during the national anthem, and President Trump calling them "sons of bitches" who should be fired.

Satya Nadella has been the CEO of Microsoft for three years. When he got the job, he was surprised at the range of non-tech issues he had to have official opinions about. "No CEO can just say I'm somehow not impacted by what's happening in society," Nadella told me.

Nadella and others at Microsoft have been very critical about the Trump administration's travel ban against Muslim countries, the transgender bathroom battle, and the change in immigration rules that will hurt "Dreamers."  

All of this fits into Nadella's belief that true leaders must celebrate "diversity and inclusion." Nadella outlines this in his new book "Hit Refresh."  When I pushed him to talk about how that plays out in practice, Nadella told me CEOs "need to have a set of principles" that could help protect existing values.

Of course, knowing when not to get involved is just as tricky. Nadella is well aware that he and other business leaders aren't elected officials. "We're CEOs of companies. For us to act as if we're in the political arena would also be a mistake," he said.

Still, it is refreshing to meet a CEO that has thought through these issues, is prepared to take a stand and has the road map (or moral compass) to guide him. No wonder Microsoft is doing so well. It has a leader that knows what he is doing, where he is going and, crucially, why.

Crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

puerto rico maria damage

Hurricane Maria could cost Puerto Rico between $45 billion and $95 billion, according to one estimate. That's a staggering price tag -- especially considering the upper end of that range is comparable to a year's worth of economic output from the U.S. territory.

Citizens are also facing a host of immediate problems, from cash shortages to sweltering, overflowing airports. Much of the region's communications infrastructure remains offline. Once rebuilding begins, it will be up to a mix of public and private groups to pick up the pieces.

-- Julia Horowitz

Is Trump starting a trade war with Canada?

us canada trade dispute

Everyone knows Trump has serious gripes with China and Mexico on trade. But tensions are now flaring with Canada, America's No. 2 trade partner.

The Trump administration plans to slap a 220% tariff on a jetliner made by Canada's Bombardier. The tariff is a big win for Boeing, but could force Canada to retaliate. U.S.-Canada trade spats already exist over dairy products and paper. And Canada has a history of playing hardball on trade.

The Boeing-Bombardier battle is already casting a shadow over ongoing talks to renegotiate NAFTA. 

-- Matt Egan

U.S. cranks up the pressure on North Korea

north korea kim jong un

The Trump administration is cracking down on North Korean banks in the hopes that more financial pressure will dissuade Kim Jong Un from further ramping up the nation's arsenal of nuclear weapons.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the sanctions after President Trump issued a "final warning" to North Korea -- and nations like China who trade with Pyongyang.

But will Beijing listen?

Beijing bought coal from North Korea in August -- even though China's goverment said earlier this year that it would no longer do so.

-- Paul R. La Monica

Saudi women finally are allowed to drive

saudi women drive

The ban on women driving is set to be lifted in Saudi Arabia next year.

There are hopes that more women will now take part in the Saudi workforce. That could boost the kingdom's economy and reduce the high level of gender inequality.

But it could hurt demand for the country's 1.4 million chauffeurs. And it may be a mixed bag for Uber and its Middle Eastern rival Careem, who have benefited from the ban since some women can't afford private drivers.

Still, Uber and Careem may now be able to recruit more women as drivers.

-- Paul R. La Monica

Quick takes

Equifax CEO exits suddenly. New boss offers free credit locking for life 

Trump rolls out tax plan, but many pivotal questions remain unanswered

Bubble trouble in Canada? Toronto faces highest risk of real estate bubble

American inequality hits record. Germany's inequality may be helping alt-right

Bling: World's second biggest diamond, mined from Botswana, sells for $53 million

What's next

President Trump in Puerto Rico: The U.S. president is expected to fly to Puerto Rico to survey the damage from Hurricane Maria on Tuesday. Congress has yet to approve an additional aid package linked to the storm.

Equifax hearing: Richard Smith stepped down as the CEO of Equifax on Tuesday in the wake of the credit monitoring company's embarrassingly massive data breach. He's scheduled to testify before Congress next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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