Donald Trump may have lost his business advisory panel but the US president has not entirely lost Wall Street.
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan chief executive; Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone chief; Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Capital founder; and Julian Robertson, legendary hedge fund investor, gave their tempered support to the president in separate talks at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Tuesday.
Mr Dimon said he would be a “traitor” if he didn’t support the president, and that “we’re all comforted” that Mr Trump surrounds himself with professionals.
“We should try to help the president be successful,” Mr Dimon said. “That doesn’t mean you agree with every policy, that doesn’t mean you agree with every issue.”
Mr Trump, whose election was welcomed by many business leaders and financial markets because of his plans to cut corporate taxes, reduce regulation and invest in infrastructure, publicly lost the support of some chief executives following his reaction to the white supremacist demonstration and attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.
His business panel, chaired by Mr Schwarzman, was disbanded during the controversy after Mr Trump said there was blame on both sides for the Charlottesville protests.
Mr Schwarzman, who is Jewish, said the chief executives on the panel had felt pressure from employees, shareholders and customers and this had been a driving force behind the decision. He said he had received hundreds of emails accusing him of being a Nazi for maintaining his position as chairman of the panel, and that, contrary to news reports, he “wasn’t outraged” by the president’s remarks.
Members of Mr Schwarzman’s panel had decided to disband on conference call last month. “I asked people what they wanted to do. I gave them one minute each. I wasn’t interested in anyone’s life history,” he said. He had taken a poll in alphabetical order, and said “it didn’t much matter” when they made it halfway through the alphabet. The decision was clear. “People were under legitimate, astonishing pressure,” he added.
Mr Schwarzman said he still talked to Mr Trump but declined to discuss how frequently.
People were under legitimate, astonishing pressure
Mr Dimon, who was also a member of the panel, said many presidential advisory groups were shortlived and downplayed its dissolution.
“The group disbanded, so it wasn’t my decision,” Mr Dimon said. “It’s not a big deal. Most presidents have councils, they have a limited life . . . But at one point it became more of a distraction than was necessary. It doesn’t mean that the CEOs of the group aren’t going to be involved in a way that they can be productively involved. It just means this group itself became more of a negative than a positive.”
Asked whether he had changed his view at all on the president, Mr Dimon said no.
“Could you imagine me standing in front of an audience like this and saying I’m not in favour of the president of the United States being successful? I’d be a traitor. We should try to help the president be successful.”
Mr Robertson, the founder of Tiger Management, a hedge fund that has spawned dozens of other funds launched by its former traders, said that despite the fact that he voted for the libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in the presidential election, “Donald Trump is our president, and I’ve tried to support the choices he’s made that I agree with”.
“I’ve contributed towards the Supreme Court justice that he elected, and I’m going to give him my support while he’s there,” he added.
Mr Dalio, who runs the largest hedge fund in the world, said he still thought the president was broadly positive for markets and the economy, though “we’re in the process of figuring this out”.
“Look, there are a lot of policies that I disagree with and choices I would make that would be different,” he said. But added that “it’s positive” if there is a pro-business environment where “it’s OK to make money, it’s a good thing to make money and make jobs and all that, and you have that at the same time as you have togetherness . . . you know, for all Americans”.
But, Mr Dalio added, it would be “terrible” if Gary Cohn, the president’s top economic adviser, were to leave the administration. He said it would be “bad for the market” and could also deter others from joining the administration.
“It would undermine the future progress of economic reforms and so on, and it would also represent a challenge of putting together an administration,” Mr Dalio said. “I would be concerned about the leadership.”
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