The Corporate Incest Problem Fueling Woke Business

Why is James Quincey, the CEO of Coca-Cola, also on Pfizer’s Board of Directors? Seems awfully convenient that the guy who seeks to profit most from sugary beverages also happens to profit from the drugs prescribed to treat the widespread illnesses caused by those sugary beverages.

Quincy isn’t alone. Apple CEO Tim Cook is on Nike’s board, Johnson & Johnson Chairman Alex Gorsky is on Apple’s board, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is on Starbucks’ board, Nike Chairman Mark Parker is on Disney’s board, and the list goes on and on.

This kind of corporate incest is by no means rare – it’s overwhelmingly the norm. And it not only enables executives to self-deal and (supposedly) competing companies to cooperate, but has also created the ideological hegemony in the boardroom that’s necessary for woke corporate activism to have become so mainstream.



We’ve all seen how most major corporations – whether they make cars, sneakers, movies or coffee – flaunt pride flags the second the clock strikes 12:00 am on June 1 like a well-trained synchronized swim team. To many, the harmony of it all is astonishing, but once you learn that the leadership (and majority ownership) of big corporations are the same people, it’s not really a surprise when nearly all of them parrot the same exact woke nonsense at the same time.

Top shareholders and board members are so overlapping and intertwined across corporations that, in some ways, most of the companies in the Dow Jones and S&P are more like one mega-conglomerate-corporation than many different competing ones. Whether it be Apple or Microsoft, Walmart or Target, Exxon or Chevron, Bank of America or JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson, or hundreds of other “competitors,” the largest shareholders of the largest corporations today are all the same: Vanguard, BlackRock, State Street and other passive management giants (who are all also the largest shareholders of each other).

Since these incestuous mega-managers have a controlling stake (with other people’s money) of nearly every major corporation, they also dominate the board elections of those corporations to the extent that they decide who runs them. And unsurprisingly, they select directors from the same small pool of woke elitists, effectively creating an incestuous managerial class of board members and C-suites akin to a corporate version of a Leninist vanguard.

In other words, America’s one giant mega-conglomerate-corporation, so to speak, essentially has one giant board consisting of Vanguard, BlackRock and State Street minions who are strategically placed in order to further politicize industry, advance a globalist agenda and uphold the new public-private Regime.

To give you an idea of how corrupt corporate board elections are, consider the fact that the Chairman and CEO of Verizon, Hans Vestberg, is also on the board of BlackRock while BlackRock is the second biggest shareholder in Verizon (Vanguard being the first and State Street the third) and thus has a decisive say in who heads Verizon. So essentially, via his prominent position at BlackRock, Vestberg uses other people’s $7.8 billion worth of shares in Verizon to vote himself into his $20 million a year position at Verizon.

As a shareholder activist with the Free Enterprise Project, I personally attended the shareholder meetings this year – where annual board elections take place – of over 30 corporations. At each one, there were roughly 6-12 director nominees endorsed by the board who were up for election. To give you an idea of the extent that the BlackRock mafia dominates these “elections,” of those 200+ candidates up for election to the board, I did not once see any of them receive below 90% of the vote.

The managerial incest is not only cross-corporate. Many, if not most, corporate board members also serve on the boards of left-wing NGOs and activist organizations.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Nestle CEO Mark Schneider and Accenture CEO Julie Sweet are all on the World Economic Forum’s Board of Trustees. Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, Citi CEO Jane Fraser, NBCUniversal Chairman Cesar Conde, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat, S&P Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin, MIT President Rafael Reif and Larry Fink (again) are all on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations.

That hardly scratches the surface. Practically every board member of every corporation also sits on the board of at least one prestigious organization, university or seemingly benevolent charity. Many may think that’s harmless because, after all, what’s so malevolent about serving on the board of a charity? But the next time you find yourself wondering why the American Cancer Society, Red Cross, Amnesty International, Salvation Army, YMCA, Paralyzed Veteran's of America and many others all re-donate some of their donations to Planned Parenthood, now you know why – the incestuous managerial class has compromised prominent institutions in every sector of society down to even cancer charities.

As The Post Millennial’s Ari Hoffman reported, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center requires applicants to fill out a “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion” statement and commit to incorporating “anti-racist DEI” into their cancer research. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella – who I mentioned earlier is also Starbucks’ board – is also on Fred Hutchinson's board of trustees.

Institutional capture is a fundamental of Marxism, and unfortunately for freedom-loving Americans, the Marxists have been very effective at it at every level of society – and the level of government is no exception.

Though the corporate vanguard is a bit more cautious about simultaneously holding public and private office – opting instead for the infamous “revolving door” method of incest – there are still some high-level directors and executives that also have government jobs at the same time.

For example, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy is currently a commissioner on President Biden’s National Security Commission on AI; and IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman and M&T Bank CEO René Jones are currently all on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman – who I mentioned earlier is also on the CFR’s board – were both directors at the New York Fed while also being CEOs of “too big to fail” banks.

While more discreet, the revolving door method is no less nefarious. Stephen Hahn – the FDA commissioner responsible for approving the emergency-use authorization of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine – now works for the venture-capital firm that launched Moderna; and Scott Gottlieb – the FDA commissioner from 2017-2019 – now sits on Pfizer’s board.

This is not rare or exclusive to big pharma. Brian Deese went from being BlackRock’s “Global Head of Sustainable Investing” right to being President Biden’s new Director of the National Economic Council. And the door spins both ways – Paul Bodnar, who now fills Brian Deese’s former position at BlackRock, was a “Special Assistant” to President Obama on energy and climate change.

For more on the revolving door, see this report (published by the American Accountability Foundation) on the corruption and biases of executives at BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street.

Because of the financial power behind it, corporate wokeness is much more concerning than pink-haired wokesters screaming at no one on the sidewalk. And because of how gated and ideologically homogeneous corporations have become, the fight against woke capital must begin with breaking up the incestuous corporate vanguard at its helm.

Ethan Peck is an associate for the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research.
 

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