Covering the World Economic Forum in that smallish village of Davos, Switzerland, is an odd affair. Big news should come out of the conference given its list of attendees — CEOs, lawmakers, presidents and prime ministers — who all hang out together thinking big thoughts on the world’s manifold problems.
And yet nothing gets accomplished. Little real news, if any, is made.
I say this not from my chalet just walking distance from the conference center and where the alleged action took place, but from my office in NYC. It’s been years since I attended and I must say I often have a hankering for the real hot chocolate served there as opposed to the fake Swiss Miss stuff I grew up on.
But not much else.
Back in January 2020, you might recall, some big “news” broke when then-President Donald Trump attended and told CNBC that nascent fears of a deadly coronavirus spreading across the globe and shutting down major economies was a big nothingburger. In his words, “we have it under control; it’s going to be just fine.”
You know what happened next.
This year’s event, which ended Friday, was clearly in keeping with the futility of the forum, its increasing woke, and proposed progressive solutions that most Americans couldn’t care less about. According to my sources who attended, the big shots there yapped about a looming global recession, global warming, China’s population decline, war in Ukraine, declining wages in places like Asia. Did I mention global warming?
Lots of panels and speeches on those subjects, but not a lot of solutions aside from the same old bromides about forcing Americans to give up their gas guzzlers for unaffordable electric cars, or raising taxes to cure world hunger. For comic relief, Oliver Stone spoke about his new documentary on the need to embrace nuclear power to stave off, you guessed it, climate change.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that those worries are neither unique or really immediately existential — the chattering classes have been agonizing about this stuff incessantly and seemingly forever. The usual litany of solutions are and have always been pretty unrealistic as well.
That’s why there’s no reason to fly to, of all places, Switzerland and pollute the atmosphere even more to indulge your paranoia about the coming end of mankind.
So why do people go? As a reporter, I went because I wanted to run into CEOs, chat up Jamie Dimon or Larry Fink about some story — until it occurred to me, I can do that here in NYC.
CEOs go, I think, to escape their wives, get some good press through virtue-signaling and, maybe, do some business. And for those who are facing difficulties back home, possibly change the narrative.
I saw David Solomon, the beleaguered CEO of Goldman Sachs, attend and try to explain to reporters his bank’s recent problems: A deal slowdown, rising expenses because of an ill-fated foray into retail banking, and a big earnings miss.
Solomon wasn’t looking to get away from his wife, but possibly a more skeptical US-dominated media (mostly here at The Post), which has been chronicling how he’s facing a simmering revolt from some of his partners angered over his management style — he’s said to be brusque, as if that breaks the CEO mold — and how he cut jobs and bonuses in a down year for deals.
So he went to Davos to show he’s firmly in control by earnestly explaining Goldman’s fourth-quarter profit plunge — again, as if his previous mea culpas weren’t enough.
Did this do much to change the narrative? Not really; my sources at the firm in Manhattan say the people who hate Solomon still hate him.
Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, made the trip as he always does, which on paper makes sense: BlackRock is the world’s largest money manager and more than a few big clients were in attendance. So did “the Mooch” — hedge fund impresario Anthony Scaramucci, who runs SkyBridge Capital, a so-called fund of funds, which invests in other hedge funds and is always on the lookout for clients.
But again, you get the feeling both would have been better served staying home; the hot chocolate in Davos isn’t good enough to convince some sovereign wealth fund to fork over billions of dollars as interest rates rise and markets get wobbly.
And consider what’s happening to both of them here. Fink gets a bum rap from conservatives for being a zealot on ESG investing, which is perceived as leftist capitalism designed to use BlackRock’s investments in companies to prod them to reduce their carbon footprint, etc.
He’s not a zealot. Far from it, based on the facts and what actually comes out of his mouth and what BlackRock actually does. Yet his problem isn’t with his fellow travelers in the global elite but with the new GOP majority in Congress and red-state officials who have their eyes on making BlackRock a target of populist anti-ESG ire.
Mooch, for his part, is wrapped into the whole Sam Bankman-Fried imbroglio, not as a target of prosecutors investigating the alleged scam, but because like many others, he thought SBF was a white knight.
SBF took a stake in SkyBridge, and is trying to disentangle himself from the mess.
Not certain how going to Davos for the hot chocolate accomplishes that.