US business leaders press Donald Trump to start transition to Joe Biden

Financial Times
November 24, 2020

Chief executives of Goldman Sachs and BlackRock warn further delays will hamper response to pandemic

US business leaders are turning up the pressure on Donald Trump to begin the transition to Joe Biden’s administration, warning that further delays threaten America’s attempts to control the public health and economic crises caused by Covid-19.

Larry Fink, chairman and chief executive of BlackRock, and David Solomon, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, joined more than 160 executives in voicing their concerns on Monday in a letter organised by the non-profit Partnership for New York City.

“Withholding resources and vital information from an incoming administration puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk,” they wrote, warning that “every day that an orderly presidential transition process is delayed, our democracy grows weaker in the eyes of our own citizens and the nation’s stature on the global stage is diminished.”

Kathryn Wylde, the Partnership for New York City’s chief executive, said her members had convened after several state attorneys-general asked Letitia James, New York attorney-general, to mobilise the city’s business leaders, noting the influence that many of them have as political donors.

“This is a moment our country has to be united and focused exclusively on our health crisis and then our economic recovery,” Ms Wylde said.

What Ms Wylde called a bipartisan “crescendo of concern” was echoed by Steve Schwarzman, the Blackstone founder and leading Republican donor, who said on Monday that the outcome of the election “is very certain today, and the country should move on”.

Mr Schwarzman noted in a statement first reported by Axios that he had supportedMr Trump, but added: “Like many in the business community, I am now ready to help president-elect Biden and his team as they confront the significant challenges of rebuilding our post-Covid economy.”

Tim Ryan, US chair of PwC and one of the letter’s signatories, said the transition had become a concern for business because of “the tremendous task ahead”.

Executives wanted the incoming Biden team to have access to the information it needed to move swiftly on further economic stimulus, vaccine distribution challenges and foreign policy issues including trade, he said.

In private calls and public statements, chief executives have supported Mr Trump’s right to call for investigations of any alleged irregularities but have made clear that they have seen no evidence of these changing the election results.

Surging Covid-19 cases across the country have heightened companies’ anxiety that the Biden team should begin work on January 20 fully prepared to start tackling the twin public health and economic crises.

Business figures from Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, to Tom Donohue, chief executive of the US Chamber of Commerce, have urged the Trump administration in recent days to begin the transition to Mr Biden’s team without delay.

The Leadership Now Project, another group of executives, wrote on Friday to Emily Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration whose approval is needed for the formal handover to begin, expressing concern that a delayed transition posed “serious risks” to the US economy.

Such concerns are shared by small business owners who “overwhelmingly want President Trump to abide by the results of the election and concede”, Frank Knapp, co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future, told reporters on Friday. “There’s no time for playing politics right now. It is time to focus on our economy.”

Ms Wylde said she did not expect her group’s letter alone to change the president’s thinking about the transition but that it would add to “momentum” building across business and other sectors.

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