Earlier today on The Call, our late morning program, I addressed concerns that have cropped up more and more lately. Specifically: where have all our leaders gone? And when they have tried to speak up and lead, why haven't they been heard?
Maybe it's because we're all too rattled to listen. Maybe it's because no single soul, in business or government, has the clarity of understanding to express fully what we face. Maybe it's because none of our leaders, in public or private sectors, has the stature, the standing, the voice, the rhetorical power to break through the din. Maybe it's because the lawyers or the PR guys have gotten to them and said, "Go on CNBC? Now? Are you nuts?" Or maybe it's because we're four weeks from a Presidential election, with a lame duck president and two candidates who, like all candidates, would really rather score political points than speak clearly and sometimes uncomfortably to the people they say they want to lead.
Whatever the reason(s), it's time for America's leading CEOs — the Fortune 500 guys — to blow past their lawyers and handlers and get their messages to shareholders, customers, employees and the broader public. I know they're worried about Sarbanes Oxley. I know they're afraid of saying something that could come back to haunt them. And I know that quite a few of them have spoken out, many on our air, and we are grateful to them. Warren Buffett, Wilbur Ross and Mike Jackson of AutoNation come to mind. But more of them need to. Many more. Newspaper ads and letters to shareholders aren't enough. My invitation to them, which aired earlier today, appears below:
You've all heard that old saying: when the times get tough, the tough get going.
No one can fault secretary paulson for moving fast and doing his best to communicate the urgency of the challenges facing the financial system.
But what is increasingly conspicuous is that, with some notable exceptions, neither business leaders nor politicians have been able, through action or words, to speak clearly, sensibly, calmingly to investors, consumers or voters.
That must change. Who will step up? If you run a public company in this country, it is your responsibility to speak to your customers and shareholders. This is the time. Cnbc is the place.
If you run a company that manages money for the american people, it is your duty to speak clearly to your account holders. Not next week. Today. This network is the place.
To the CEOs of Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, Janus, and others, this is your invitation. The microphone is yours.
When we call, please say yes.