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Backlash from big business grows over Trump upheaval

The ranks of business leaders attacking Donald Trump’s immigration clampdown swelled on Monday as executives at several large US companies criticised the measures while Amazon said it was considering a legal challenge.

Executives at the financial groups Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and MasterCard, the carmaker Ford and beverage group Coca-Cola risked a clash with the president as they criticised the restrictions on travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — one of the tech leaders who met Mr Trump before his inauguration — said the retailer was exploring legal options to oppose the move. The company also plans to support a lawsuit filed earlier on Monday by the state of Washington.

In an email to employees, Mr Bezos wrote: “No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants. It’s a distinctive competitive advantage for our country — one we should not weaken.”

Google employees staged a large-scale walkout on Monday at eight campuses across the US to express condemnation of the immigration order.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who came to the US as a refugee from Russia, and chief executive Sundar Pichai, both addressed crowds of employees holding signs such as “refugees welcome here” and “no ban no wall”.

The restrictions have dented business optimism that Mr Trump’s presidency would be good for the US economy.

Michael Corbat, chief executive of Citigroup, wrote to staff: “We are concerned about the message the executive order sends, as well as the impact immigration policies could have on our ability to serve our clients and contribute to growth.”

Ajay Banga, chief executive of MasterCard, highlighted that he was an immigrant to the US. “I am deeply concerned, as many of you are, with this fracture in our society,” he said.

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs chairman and chief executive, left a message in staff voicemail inboxes on Sunday saying it was a “fitting time” to reflect on the bank’s stated commitment to diversity.

Muhtar Kent, chairman and chief executive of Coca-Cola, said: “We do not support this travel ban or any policy that is contrary to our core values and beliefs.”

Several other executives made more guarded statements about the measures, highlighting the difficulty companies face in keeping employees and customers onside while also avoiding antagonising the new administration unduly.

In directly criticising Mr Trump’s policies, executives have locked horns with a president who has been more than willing to assail the private sector in personally tinged Twitter attacks.

The risks of challenging the administration in public was demonstrated by Starbucks. Howard Schultz, chief executive, said over the weekend that over the next five years the company planned to hire 10,000 refugees in the 75 countries where it operates.

That provoked a social media campaign against it, and on Monday #BoycottStarbucks was the top trending topic on Twitter in the US.

Jeff Immelt, chief executive of General Electric, said in a post on his blog that the company would stand with its customers in the Middle East and “strive to find the balance between the need for security and the movement of law abiding people”.

He added that GE would “make our voice heard with the new administration and congress and reiterate the importance of this issue” but did not criticise the policy directly.

No nation is better at harnessing the energies and talents of immigrants

JPMorgan Chase said in a message from senior managers led by Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive, that it had been in touch with employees who were potentially hit by the move.

The bank added that some “outstanding employees” were immigrants. “Our country, economy and wellbeing are strengthened by the rich diversity of the world around us.”

Several tech executives, including Tim Cook at Applehave already condemned the executive order. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, joined a demonstration at San Francisco International Airport.

Additional reporting by Ben McLannahan in New York, and Martin Arnold and Peter Campbell in London

Via FT