AC Alert for January 30, 2012 Beset With Issues --But Better than any Alternative! The Debate Goes on at High-Wattage Davos Meeting

Jan 31, 2012 9:45 AM ET AC Alert for January 30, 2012 Beset With Issues --Bu…

AC Alert for January 30, 2012
Capitalism: Beset With Issues --But Better Than Any alternative! The Debate Goes on at High-Wattage Davos Meeting

Leaders of the world's major countries congregated in Davos, Switzerland last week for the 2012 World Economic Forum. The annual forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. While many issues -- including Europe's debt crisis -- were discussed, one underlying theme seemed to dominate much of the conversation: For all its faults and shortcomings, capitalism is still better than any of the alternatives. 

"Capitalism may be the worst form of systems, except for every other system," said David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, the Washington-based global asset management firm. With "Occupy" style protesters camped at an igloo near the snowy meeting venue, pressure is on the VIPs at this year's forum to take workers' fears into account as they discuss the world's economic problems. The Occupy movement and other protests have drawn global attention to anger over inequality, stubbornly high unemployment in many areas, and increasing poverty in both developed and emerging economies.

Those from the corporate world shifted some blame onto governments. Reform is "not just about corporations and greed. It's about decision-making," said Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen. "Why does it take Europe (and its leaders) two years to come to a conclusion that they knew they had to face anyway?" He didn't elaborate but appeared to be referring to the acknowledgment of the severity of the crisis and need for bold action, and the leaders' decision to bring economic management of countries that use the euro closer together.

Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, which was forced to back down from plans to start charging a $5 debit card fee after protests by Occupy protesters as well as tens of thousands of bank customers, said banks have "done a lot" to reduce excesses and said that boom and bust cycles are a part of the capitalist structure.

But others argued that the process is not inevitable — and that government should take a stronger role in regulating how companies do business.

International Trade Union Confederation chief Sharan Burrow, said: "We've lost a moral compass," and said that if governments don't invest in social protections now, "nobody will like the social unrest that will follow." The CEO of accounting giant Deloitte, Joe Echevarria, talked about developing "compassionate" capitalism. "You're going to have to deal with regulation — balancing the need to protect society along with stifling growth." (Source: The Washington Post)

In a week dominated by news about political primaries, the President of the United States delivered his State of the Union Message and preparations for the Super Bowl, many of the developments at Davos were relegated to "back page" news status by the mainstream media.

Not so at AC. We view the forum as an extremely important event where powerful and impactful ideas and issues were being proposed and discussed. That's precisely why we gather news and commentary on or about the forum – and from the forum -- together in three sections of AC: Accounting and Finance; Capital Markets and Globalization.

The news coming out of the forum covered a wide range of issues and opinion, as this sampling indicates:

Davos Dealmakers Defy Doubters by Discussing Takeovers 2
(Source: Business Week) The chief executive officers of some of Europe's richest companies, gathering at the World Economic Forum amid a flood of negative economic forecasts, had a message for doubters: don't count us out. The heads of Nestle, Royal Dutch Shell and Vodafone Group are starting 2012 with the resources for deal making: strong cash reserves, robust balance sheets and emerging-market operations that are blunting the impact of slowing profits at home.

Economist who foresaw '08 crash warns conflict with Iran could cause global recession
(Source: MSNBC) Economist Nouriel Roubini, nicknamed "Dr. Doom" for his gloomy predictions in the run-up to the financial meltdown four years ago, says the fallout from that crisis could last the rest of this decade. Speaking in Davos, he also warned that a conflict with Iran over its controversial nuclear program could lead to a global recession.

Geithner Offers Upbeat U.S. Outlook, With European Caveat
(Source: New York Times) Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner delivered an upbeat growth outlook at the World Economic Forum last week, but he also warned that America's recovery could still be derailed by geopolitical and financial troubles abroad. The United States is likely to grow at 2 to 3 percent this year, he said, unless Europe fails to keep a lid on its chronic sovereign debt crisis or a rise in tensions between Iran and the international community stokes global oil prices.

Bill Gates tells Davos 'economic crisis is not an excuse for cutting aid'
(Source: Bill Gates told the World Economic Forum that he has pledged $750 million to the Global Fund, which fights AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, through his charitable foundation. He also called on governments around the world not to let the economic crisis affect their commitment to the life-saving fund.

Nestle Chairman Highlights Global Water Shortage In World Economic Forum, Davos
(Source: RTT News) Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe highlighted the prospect of global water shortage and its cascading impacts in comments last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He warned that the water shortfall over the next two decades will reduce global cereal production by a third and could trigger social unrest.

European leaders float free trade agreement with US as talks on global deal languish
(Source: Washington Post) British Prime Minister David Cameron gave his support to the idea of a free trade deal between the European Union and the U.S. suggesting that a trans-Atlantic pact could deliver a much-needed boost to global commerce. His call for a bilateral deal with Washington follows similar comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and comes amid widespread admission among global leaders that the so-called Doha Round of free trade talks is dead.

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.