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Companies are really struggling with exactly how to calibrate their responses: CEO

Rich Lesser, Boston Consulting Group CEO joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the latest developments in DC following the riots at the Capitol.

Video Transcript

- As we've covered here, the fallout and reaction to last week's riot at the Capitol also trickled through, and continues to trickle through, corporate America with many freezing political donations for the time being. Others, particularly focusing on pausing donations only for GOP members who voted against certifying results in the election. And then there's Hallmark sending a powerful message, as powerful as those messages in their greeting cards, asking for the Senator who led the charge to challenge Biden's win, Senator Josh Hawley, to give back the $7,000 the company donated to his campaign.

So and-- so we are seeing increasing pressure here from corporate America. And joining us now for more on the response in corporate America is Rich Lesser, a Boston Consulting Group CEO. And Rich, good to have you back on. I mean, you were ahead of this, right?

You signed the letter, along with a number of top CEOs telling Congress to accept the results in the election and move on. We didn't necessarily see that play out here as they continue to battle, and then we saw what happened with the riot. So what do you make right now of the way a lot of companies are reacting to all this?

RICH LESSER: I think companies are really struggling with exactly how to calibrate their responses. I think that, in general, the business community deeply believes in the importance of a robust democracy, of rule of law, of following the Constitution, as a critical underpinning of society and of the economy. And what we've observed has put that under threat. And the attack on the Capitol just brought it to life in such a striking way.

Most businesses want to make their donations, or contributions, without having to consider political issues like this. But I think they're feeling forced to at least think through what they want to do. I mean, BCG doesn't make political donations so for us, this particular issue is not one we're wrestling with.

But clearly, a lot of companies, like this is the time to take a stand and to say that when you're questioning the validity of an election, it crosses a line. Particularly, when it leads to what we've seen.

- Yeah. I mean, it's interesting because, you know, signing a letter like the one you signed, you know, might not seem political in saying, look, accept the election results. They are what they are. But there's a lot of things in the time we're in right now that might not seem political, but inevitably being judged as so, particularly, when it comes from brands or corporations here.

So what's kind of maybe the temperature check that you're hearing from corporate leaders who may have also signed the letter you signed, urging Congress to accept the results? So what are you hearing from them as maybe look ahead to the incoming administration in terms of maybe where they would throw support behind some of these policy goals, and how now the conversation changes in corporations putting support behind some of these things?

RICH LESSER: Well, I think if you look ahead and go-- go beyond the next eight days, I guess, the-- the business community and the Biden administration, now with a Democratic Congress, will need to figure out what kind of relationship they want to have. And there's real potential for it to be a positive one. But it's not without challenges, like, I mean, on the positive side, there are topics around infrastructure, the digital divide, getting a good trade policy in place, immigration.

There are multiple places where there's a potential for collaboration to move things forward. But then there will be tricky issues around how taxes and other things are handled, and how extreme each side will be there, to defend the status quo, or to make dramatic change that I think will really determine whether there can be an effective working relationship, or it becomes very, very heated and contested. So I think that's all to be determined.

But-- but I do think-- personally, I believe there's a real win-win here when you look at what the business community wants and is advocating for, what the Biden administration really needs in terms of a strong, robust economic recovery with investment and job creation. There should be the basis for an effective dialogue.

- Yeah. And we're going to be getting into that win-win, particularly when it comes to the climate change policy proposals later on in the show. But particularly here, I guess it's a bit different than some of the other coming together as we've seen in past election cycles, because now, we're dealing with this strange kind of a historic precedent here in the president being impeached, potentially, for the second time. That's a first.

But also, maybe the way that a lot of people who had supported the president here maybe in political donations now walking back that support and kind of dealing with the awkwardness of maybe now having to address some of the things that the movement that we saw play out in the Capitol last week, now having to distance themselves from that. So when it comes to maybe bringing both sides together here to-- to achieve some of the goals this country has, that companies have, how difficult is that? And how much more difficult maybe does it become to bring both sides together in corporate America to achieve some of those policies?

RICH LESSER: Well, look, first of all, I think where corporate America will come together is in supporting the transition and supporting and wishing for the success of the next president. I think we've seen a time where that's really been challenged. And most CEOs, independent of their ingoing political views, I think, really genuinely believe we need to move beyond this extreme division and try to bring people together, and try to create more of a common narrative of trying to push the country, first and foremost, to get past this pandemic, which is killing hundreds of thousands of people. And it's likely to continue to do that, at least in the near term.

Then when you get to policy issues, of course-- of course, there're going to be disagreements. And as you-- you rightly added climate to the list I gave. I do think there are places for compromise and moving forward. It's going to be complex.

It's not just business and the presidency. It's a very, very divided Congress. And whether they can work together to get things done, I think, is really an outstanding question, after all, that's gone on, not just in the last week, but over the last few years.

- Yeah. I know a lot of our viewers are welcoming the shift back to the policies themselves and what can come through the political process, rather than maybe the dramatics that we've seen play out here in recent days. But Rich Lesser, Boston Consulting Group CEO, appreciate you coming back on here. Be well.