What Obama's Win Means for C-Suites

Last Updated Nov 5, 2008 4:41 PM EST

What does Barack Obama's victory mean for the C-Suite?

More regulation of certain sectors; more taxes for narrow sectors, corporations in general and the rich; more attention to greenhouse gases; more concern for health insurance alternatives; and some kind of economic stimulus package.

Plus, the C-Suite had better get used to tighter disclosure of executive compensation and a much more favorable political environment for shareholder democracy.

The Obama Admininistration will not be the business-hostile monster that the John McCain campaign claimed, but it will certainly take a more policy-oriented, organized approach than anything the Bush White House came up with. One benefit is that Democrats have expanded their hold on Congress, although not enough in the Senate to prevent Republican filibustering.

A few examples:

  • Taxes. Oil companies will probably be slapped with a windfall profits tax and perhaps surtaxes on offshore Gulf of Mexico production. Breaks will be given to some industries and the middle class. Those making more than $250,000 a year, including many CEOs, will likely face higher taxes. Corporate taxes will also go up.
  • More anti-trust scrutiny. Firms such as telecommunications that were able to merge with impunity over the past decade or more will face tougher anti-trust measures.
  • Tougher lending and financial regulation. Anti-predatory lending measures will focus attention on housing, automobile and credit cards lenders. Investment houses that created off-the-books derivatives such as credit default swaps will find themselves facing more rules as will hedge funds and other private equity outlets.
  • Expanded corporate governance. Assuming it stays in its present form, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission will swing back to Democratic hands. Pro-shareholder measures such as allowing open nominations for directors will get boosts as will "Say on Pay."
  • Green is good. After eight years of Bush Admininstration denial on global warming, the Obama Administration will take an entirely different position on carbon footprints. Expect a complex cap and trade program to reduce carbon dioxide with huge impacts on how companies operate. Likewise, alternative energy program such as wind and geothermal will get the go ahead.
  • Trade. Not clear at the moment, but there will be a shift in the laissez-faire approach adopted by Bush. There will be more attention, and possibly more taxes, on businesses that offshore jobs and tougher negotiating stances against China.
  • Unions. New programs that allow unions to organize by having workers sign cards instead of secret ballots will gain traction. Unions had been in retreat for two decades but perhaps not any more.
  • Defense. New scrutiny on weapons systems.
Actually, if you get past the rhetoric, McCain backed many similar programs, such as cap and trade and even defense. No matter what, however, really big changes are afoot. Stay tuned.