The Morning Risk Report: Companies Face China’s Wrath About Taiwan

By: Ben DiPietro

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                                            Passengers at Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan on May 29, 2018. China is putting pressure on airlines to change their Taiwan destinations to show the country is part of China. DAVID CHANG/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCKEFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Good morning. China continues to pressure companies to acknowledge its control over Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet, putting businesses in the awkward position of trying to appease China while maintaining relationships in those locales, WSJ Risk & Compliance Journal reports.

Costco Wholesale is the latest company to have to deal with this issue, after the retailer recently was called out on Chinese social media for a 2016 letter from a Costco executive that stated the company “very much consider it [Taiwan] a country.”

Beijing claims Taiwan as Chinese territory but the island split from the mainland in a civil war nearly seven decades ago. Control of Hong Kong reverted back to China in 1997, after an agreement allowing the U.K. to run the island expired.

How should companies handle this?

There is “no magical messaging or purple pill that will make everyone happy,” especially with a contentious issue where political divides are unavoidable, said Jolie Balido, chief executive of public-relations firm Roar Media.

Companies can best thread this needle with a robust and integrated risk and crisis management program, having a cross-functional team in place, and getting clear direction from the CEO and board about what company policy should be, said Andrea Bonime-Blanc, chief executive of GEC Risk Advisory.

The only safe approach is to combine speed of response with a big dose of humility because, at the end of the day, it is about cultural respect, said Hugh Braithwaite, chief executive of Braithwaite Communications. “It’s the speed of their response and humble tone that helps the most,” he said.


U.S. extends sanctions trading deadline. The U.S. Treasury Department extended for two months a deadline to divest or transfer shares in blacklisted Russian companies.

Treasury on Thursday said it would authorize, until Aug. 5, the sale or transfer of shares of EN+ Group PLCGAZ Group and United Co. Rusalfrom people under U.S. sanctions to those not on the blacklist.

Oleg Deripaska, a blacklisted Russian oligarch, controls two-thirds of EN+, which is a U.K.-listed holding company that owns 48% of Rusal, the Russian aluminum giant. Mr. Deripaska last week quit the board of Rusal, and in April agreed to sell down his majority ownership of EN+.

Greg Barker, the chairman of EN+, told Reuters on Thursday that he had asked Treasury to extend the license while he worked on a plan to get his holding company and Rusal off the sanctions list. The original license was set to expire June 5. — Samuel Rubenfeld

“Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board.” Top executives at big U.K. companies are trotting out this and other excuses to justify their failure to hire women for their boards, the government said on Thursday, releasing several such quotes from unnamed people.

Shareholders of Kinder Morgan and Anardarko Petroleum Corp.passed resolutions last month seeking specific climate-change risk disclosures, a sign that large asset managers continue to pressure companies on their environmental strategy.


The Trump administration raised the prospect of a global trade warby imposing tariffs on imports from the closest U.S. neighbors and allies, who swiftly pledged to retaliate with duties of their own. Canada, Mexico and the European Union all said they planned tariffs of their own, the WSJ reports.

A red-hot steel slab passes through the rolling mill inside a ArcelorMittal Dofasco Inc. steel plant in Hamilton, Ont., in 2017.

Australia is preparing to charge  Australia and New Zealand Banking GroupCitigroup and Deutsche Bank with criminal cartel violations over trading in ANZ shares following a $2.3 billion sale of stock by the bank in 2015, Reuters reports. The banks denied wrongdoing.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights is investigating requirements by California and Hawaii that anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” tell women about state-subsidized family-planning services including abortion, the WSJ reports. The move is part of a push to use civil-rights law to roll back Obama-era health-care rules, the WSJ reports.

California’s state-sponsored retirement-savings plan, expected to be the U.S.’s largest when it launches in coming months, was hit with a lawsuit in the first major legal challenge to states developing or authorizing auto-enrollment programs, the WSJ reports.

The Trump administration is giving two oil refiners tens of millions of dollars’ worth of retroactive biofuels credits in a move that is adding to a conflict  between refiners and farmers over requirements that oil companies blend biofuels into their products, the WSJ reports.

China’s highest court said Zhang Wenzhong, the founder of the grocery chain Wumart, was innnocent of charges of corruption for which he was convicted in 2009. It was the first of several retrialsmeant to reassure business people worried by state influence over the economy, the Financial Times reports.


Mick Mulvaney, the interim head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is lifting a freeze on the bureau’s collection of private consumer data, which helps its examiners oversee financial institutions, following a review of the agency’s cybersecurity defenses, the WSJ reports.


Samsonite International said Friday its chief executive, Ramesh Tainwala, has resigned a week after a short seller claimed the executive had misrepresented himself as having a doctorate. Mr. Tainwala also stepped down from the company’s board, the WSJ reports.

After years in bankruptcy, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis unveiled a reorganization plan that includes a $210 million settlement with clergy sexual abuse victims. The settlement includes the archdiocese, about 450 abuse victims, roughly 180 parishes and 25 insurance carriers, the WSJ reports.

Alexandra Court, the Guggenheim Partners LP sales executive whose tenure sparked controversy, including over an alleged relationship with the firm’s chief executive officer, has exited the company after a nearly yearlong leave. The company said neither it nor Ms. Court would comment, the WSJ reports.


Poor communication and management at John F. Kennedy International Airport caused days of misery for thousands of travelers following a January storm, according to a report commissioned by the airport’s operator, the WSJ reports.

Just as Brazil began to recover from a 10-day strike by truckers protesting rising fuel prices, some workers at state-run oil giant Petroleos Brasileiros briefly walked off the job, the WSJ reports. It was unclear how many oil workers participated in the walkout.

Demonstrators protested against high fuel prices in front of the headquarters of Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras in São Paulo on Thursday. CRIS FAGA/ZUMA PRESS


Sears Holdings said it plans to close more than 60 stores it has deemed unprofitable. Sears has been closing hundreds of stores in recent years, selling brands and spinning off divisions to stay afloat as customers defect to other retailers, the WSJ reports.

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