Bernie Sanders has 'angst' about business: Former UBS exec

Recent campaign rhetoric and government policy has amplified a feeling of hostility toward American businesses, two current and former executives contended Thursday.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has repeatedly taken swipes at the banking system and big corporations, promising to rein in their power and influence. Pfizer and Allergan, meanwhile, scrapped a $160 billion merger deal this week after the Treasury Department issued new rules to deter so-called tax inversions.

Those and other developments underscore a need for more reasonable business policy and tax reform that encourages businesses to stay in the United States, said Robert Wolf, former CEO of UBS' Americas division. Sanders' rhetoric does not help that cause, he said.

"He has an incredible angst against the business community," Wolf said on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to guests at a campaign rally at the Wisconsin Convention Center on April 4, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to guests at a campaign rally at the Wisconsin Convention Center on April 4, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers argued President Barack Obama has been "anti-company" during his time in office. He told "Closing Bell" that the U.S. corporate tax rate and other policies drag on business growth and job creation.

This week's developments did not inspire Rodgers' confidence in the government. Obama, though, argued the government's actions in the Pfizer-Allergan deal helped to protect American consumers and make the tax system more fair.

In an inversion, a U.S. company acquires a smaller foreign competitor and moves its tax address. The company aims to get a lower tax rate in the process.

Obama called for congressional action to end inversions and cut out other loopholes, which would boost the revenue streams the government could invest in infrastructure and education.

"Only Congress can close it for good. And only Congress can make sure that all the other loopholes that are being taken advantage of are closed," Obama said.

Wolf and Rodgers echoed Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, who told CNBC on Wednesday that the government needs to address the corporate tax concerns that drive companies to seek inversions, not the inversion deals themselves.

"We need business tax reform, it's clear," Wolf said Thursday.

He also addressed rhetoric from Sanders and others about Wall Street, which prompted a defense from JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on Wednesday. Wolf said Sanders, despite his campaign emphasis on splitting up large banks, "really doesn't understand how to break up the banks."

Sanders' campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.