From the Front Lines of American Capitalism

On March 22, Boeing’s biggest U.S. customers took their frustrations with poor company performance to the company’s board of directors.  The airline executives wanted Boeing’s board to take personal responsibility for quality control.  They wanted to express concern over the fuselage failure of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX aircraft and production problems in the manufacture of airplanes.

Boeing’s CEO, David Calhoun, had apologized for Boeing’s mistakes and said that the company is working with customers and regulators to address their concerns.  Calhoun had come to Boeing to improve the company’s prospects after fatal crashes of two 737 MAX aircraft in 2018 and 2019.  Previously, he had worked at General Electric and Blackstone.

On March 25, Calhoun said he will leave his position as CEO at the end of the year.  Boeing also announced that the head of its commercial aircraft business will leave the company immediately and its board chair won’t stand for re-election.  An outsider will take over as chair and lead the search for a new CEO.

Secondly, the U.S. federal government and 15 states have gone to court to allege that Apple designs products to discourage consumers from integrating into their iPhones service features of competitors, which encourages consumers to pay more for cell phone use.  U.S. officials have already brought antitrust actions against Amazon, Google and Meta platforms to bring more market discipline to bear on the ability of those companies to make a profit.

Thirdly, a coalition of 41 states and the City of Washington, D.C. have filed lawsuits against Meta for intentionally selling products having addictive features that harm young users of Facebook and Instagram.  Teen users of the apps report that they feel addicted, knowing that “what they are seeing is bad for their mental health, but feel unable to stop themselves.”

The lawsuit uses documents which were part of a series of 2021 articles on Facebook in the Wall Street Journal.  ESG corporate stakeholder responsibility anyone?

Blackrock, Vanguard and State Street are reportedly on track to own half the shares of all American companies within 15 years.  How’s that for a concentration of power in a few hands?  According to Harvard Law Professor John Coates, private equity and index funds are concentrating wealth and power.

Lord Acton once said, “And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently, men with the mentality of gangsters get control.  History has proven that.”

Fourth, when people have power, they can misuse it.  Bill Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund manager, has found that on Facebook, imposters have placed more than 90 different ads pretending to be him touting stock investments.  Other wealthy investors have also been impersonated.  The ads lure their marks into joining WhatsApp groups to get stock tips.

When complaints were filed, Facebook replied that the ads don’t go against its standards.
The Federal Trade Commission reported that imposter scam losses rose between 2019 and 2023 to $2.7 billion.

Social media platform X (formerly Twitter) blocked searches about the singer, Taylor Swift, after explicit, digitally fabricated fakes of her proliferated on the site.

As Lord Acton also said: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Social media empowers people.  Having money empowers people.  What, then, keeps them from abusing their power: free markets?  The law?  Morality?  Fear of the Lord?