âItâs been a difficult time here,â he said on Thursday. âThereâs been anger and frustration within the company. We all feel it. I feel it too. At Google, we set a very high bar, and we clearly didnât live up to our expectations.â
The company gave male executives millions of dollars in exit packages after they were accused of sexual misconduct, according to an article in The New York Times last week. On Thursday, Mr. Pichai said that the company has âdrawn a very hard lineâ on inappropriate behavior in recent years and that Google is now âa different place.â
But, he added, âmoments like this show we didnât always do it right.â He promised that âthere are concrete steps coming up,â but he hesitated to say that Google has a toxic culture.
âSexual harassment is a societal problem and Google is a large company,â he said. âWe are definitely doing our best.â
Mr. Pichaiâs tenure atop Google has been marked with internal clashes and external finger-pointing.
Last summer, he fired a software engineer who circulated a memo questioning Googleâs diversity strategy and the tech industryâs gender gap. Pushback against the move, as well as support for it, came swiftly â the employee, James Damore, sued Google in January for workplace discrimination.
âWe are a company thatâs about freedom of expression and information,â Mr. Pichai said, adding that âwe allow people to speak upâ but âalso have a code of conduct.â
Republican legislators have hounded the company with allegations of political bias. A video posted in September to the right-wing media site Breitbart showed Google executives, including Mr. Pichai, bemoaning the election of President Trump while at a company meeting in 2016.
Mr. Pichai said on Thursday that Google, which is based in Northern California, has âlocal left-leaning employees and local right-leaning employeesâ but stressed that the company has a global mindset. Besides, he said, personal political leanings are âdifferent than how we build our products, and we are committed to doing it in a nonpartisan way.â
When asked about the companyâs intentions in China, Mr. Pichai insisted that âthereâs nothing weâre doing right nowâ on the so-called Dragonfly plan and that Google would consult with the federal government before making a move.
â Tiffany Hsu
Peter Thiel is a man on an island
How many times does some tweet or policy action or statement by President Trump leave Peter Thiel, one of his most vocal supporters, in disbelief?
Actually, he said, âit doesnât happen very often.â
By many classic measures, Mr. Thiel has impeccable Silicon Valley credentials: co-founder of PayPal, a Facebook board member since 2005, a partner at the venture capital firm Founders Fund, sponsor of an ocean cleanup project, Bitcoin investments and a namesake investment company.
But in many ways, he is a man on an island â and not just because he has New Zealand citizenship.
His frequent defense of President Trump â a stance that Reed Hastings of Netflix referred to as âcatastrophically bad judgmentâ â has set him apart from much of the tech industry.
On Thursday, he acknowledged that the current political environment is ânot healthyâ but said that the country has been âpolarised since the late 60sâ and that President Trump is ânot the main cause.â
But Mr. Thiel allowed that the conspiracy theories, misinformation and hateful language that have proven difficult to tamp out at Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram, are âcertainly worrisome.â
âItâs a complicated thing to get right,â he said.
âI tend to think that the inaccuracies President Trump tells are basically exaggerations of the truth,â Mr. Thiel said.
He also addressed his move to Los Angeles earlier this year, saying that Silicon Valley now âfeels like a one-party stateâ marked by âthe madness of crowds.â
â Tiffany Hsu
Lloyd Blankfein is still defending Goldman
A month after relinquishing the role of chief executive officer at Goldman Sachs, Lloyd C. Blankfein was still defending the firm he now chairs.
âI would say that weâre pretty compliant,â he said late Thursday afternoon at the DealBook conference in Manhattan. He was responding to a question about federal criminal charges filed hours earlier against two former Goldman investment bankers over their role in helping to finance a Malaysian government fund from which about $4 billion went missing. âBut here in this case, at the very least, and this part I know, one of our people lied to us and evaded our systems and our controls.â
âItâs not good,â he added.
On Oct. 1, the longtime investment-banking chief David M. Solomon succeeded Mr. Blankfein as C.E.O. Mr. Blankfein, 64, has stayed on as senior chairman of the board through the end of this year. Beyond joking about the idea of unfettered tweeting, he has said little so far about his future plans.
On Thursday afternoon, looking relaxed in a navy suit and blue tie, he reminisced about his more than twelve years running Goldman and addressed some of the c-suite mysteries that had enveloped his tenure. As to whether longtime firm president Gary D. Cohn could have ever succeeded him as C.E.O., he was equivocal.
âI think his leaving coincided with a new administration,â said Mr. Blankfein, âbut I hadnât done him the favor of telling him when I was leaving at that point.â
As to whether he would have done anything differently to help Goldman weather the financial crisis, he said more proactive public relations would have helped burnish the firmâs image.
âOur mantra was our clients should have the exposure, not us. Weâre in the background,â he said of the firmâs approach to publicity in the pre-crisis years. âThat hurt us a lot.â
â Kate Kelly
What could the Murdochs sell next?
Making a rare public appearanceThursday at the DealBook conference, the 47-year-old executive discussed the familyâs latest round of deal making and what it could mean for the familyâs other assets. In particular, he spoke about the newspaper business under News Corp, a roster that includes The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post, as well as The Times and The Sun in Britain.
The sale of Foxâs film and TV studios to Disney prompted a question about whether his father would ever sell The Wall Street Journal, which Mr. Murdoch acquired in 2007 for over $5 billion.
âI never thought weâd sell the TV studio, the film studio, so who knows?â Lachlan responded. In the next breath, he said of his father, âHe loves journalism. He loves The Wall Street Journal and what it represents.â
The businesses that will remain under the control of the Murdochs after the close of the Disney deal early next year will center on news and sports. That means Lachlan will run Fox News, the Fox Broadcasting network and the FS1 cable sports network.
Fox News, in particular, has come under heavy criticism for its close ties to the Trump administration. That has led to charges from critics that Fox News, and the larger Murdoch TV business, is actually a red state media organization.
Lachlan disagreed. âI think about it as an all-state media organization,â he said, later adding that, âwe program to everyone. Itâs to the coasts. But also everywhere in-between.â
He cited figures that showed more Fox viewers are tuned to its sober news segments than the fiery opinion hours. âI think a lot of people donât realize that,â he said.
â Edmund Lee
âTalent Is Not Somehow a Passâ
Padma Lakshmi believes in redemption for men brought down amid the #MeToo movement.
But that redemption should come from genuine remorse and understanding of the impact of oneâs actions, as Ms. Lakshmi said Thursday, and shouldnât be driven by a manâs being good at a certain job.
âTheir talent is not somehow a pass,â she said at the DealBook conference Playing for the Long Term. âIt does not exempt them from really having to be disgraced, because what they did was disgraceful.â
It was one of the lessons that Ms. Lakshmi and her fellow panelist, Lisa Borders, sought to impress on their audience. The women discussed how the #MeToo movement continued to revolutionize gender dynamics across the workplace, culture, in social circles and in sports and education. Both have become vocal leaders.
Ms. Lakshmi, the host and an executive producer of âTop Chefâ as well as a model, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in September revealing that she was raped at the age of 16 and empathizing with women who waited years to disclose sexual assault.
The op-ed was published as two women came forward to detail accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee, and President Trump questioned why one of the women, Christine Blasey Ford, didnât report the incident when it happened more than 30 years ago.
Ms. Borders, formerly the president of the W.N.B.A., was named chief executive of Timeâs Up, a legal advocacy group for women in the workplace, last month, and her first day on the job was Thursday. The organization aims to tackle workplace discrimination around the world.
The conversation was wide-ranging as Ms. Borders and Ms. Lakshmi described the need for a cultural shift, not just in the workplace, but particularly in how men are socialized and boys are raised.
âWe need to stop equating aggression and masculinity because I think thatâs a big part of it,â Ms. Lakshmi said.
Ms. Borders said there needed to be more transparency, particularly on the issue of salaries, so women would know if they were being underpaid. She said that companies should understand that policies and practices that empower women also help organizations as a whole.
âWe add value,â Ms. Borders said.
Both women said the ability to share stories through social media had helped strengthen the #MeToo movement and create a time of real social change. Ms. Borders said there was a recognition among what she called survivors of sexual abuse that their stories were not âour burden to bear but societyâs burden to bear.â
âAnd it lit fire,â she said.
Snap Chief: Broadcasting Regulations Offer a Lesson in Social Media Age
Evan Spiegel, the chief executive of Snap, the maker of the disappearing-message app Snapchat, said broadcasting regulations offer a framework for how to think about the dangers of social media.
âIf you look historically at America, a place thatâs always celebrated things like free speech, weâve actually always thought about broadcasting really differently than how we thought about communication,â he said.
While Americans have long accepted most forms of speech, even the distasteful kind, they have been less tolerant when that speech is widely distributed, he said, noting that broadcasters are subject to regulations on what they can and canât say or show.
âI think weâre in this weird moment in time where this behaviorâs been enabled technically and the regulatory framework actually hasnât caught up to that reality,â Mr. Spiegel said.
When asked if he was suggesting that social media should be regulated, Mr. Spiegel said only that there was much to learn from how Americans have thought about the responsibility of broadcasters in the past. The challenge, though, is identifying what, exactly, broadcasting is, he said.
âWe understand what one-on-one communication is, but letâs say your Uncle Joe, for example, has some very extreme, maybe not so accurate, views on the world and he wants to reach 500 people. Is that OK? If he wants to reach 50,000 people, is that OK? If he wants to reach 100,000, is that OK? Where do we draw the line in terms of where broadcasting is versus communication with friends?â
Some have argued that social media has enabled social change, but Mr. Spiegel said that view is overly simplistic.
âOne of the more dangerous things that Iâve seen is this idea that just using your voice is going to make a big difference,â he said. âThatâs a piece of it, thatâs half of it, but the other half is really taking action to implement that change.â
â Niraj Chokshi
Merckâs Ken Frazier explains why C.E.O.s need principles
To address corporate Americaâs diversity problem, Ken Frazier sees a lesson in his own past.
The chief executive of Merck is one of only three black chief executives in the Fortune 500. But growing up as the son of a janitor in inner-city Philadelphia, Mr. Frazier faced an opportunity gap. Fortunately for him, a desegregation policy and a 90-minute daily bus ride that gave him time to read helped to overcome it.
âI look back at my own life and I realize that I was treated in an extraordinary way in this country,â he said.
As the nation increasingly self-segregates, Mr. Frazier said, the workplace is one of the few remaining places that offers that same opportunity for people of different backgrounds to interact â and business leaders, he says, have a responsibility to uphold that basic American value.
That conviction led Mr. Frazier to step down last year from President Trumpâs manufacturing advisory council, the first of many executives to do so after the president equivocated in his response to white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017.
âFor me, it was a very clear personal decision as a matter of conscience,â Mr. Frazier said. âI happen to believe that political discourse, political speech, has consequences.â
â Niraj Chokshi
Mary Barra says G.M. is âon trackâ to roll out autonomous vehicles next year
Mary T. Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, said that the company plans to roll out a ride-sharing service that would rely on autonomous vehicles in 2019, a development that would advance the already-heated race to bring self-driving cars to market.
âWeâre on track, with our rate of learning, to be able to do that next year,â Ms. Barra said, adding that the company had a strategy to show how its vehicles are safer than human drivers. The vehicles can currently run safely at speeds of up to about 30 miles per hour, and the service will be limited to a small geographical area, Ms. Barra said.
She did not say where the service would operate, but noted that the company has been testing in San Francisco.
Autonomous vehicles rely on what Ms. Barra described as âa suite of sensors,â including radar, cameras and a technology known as lidar. G.M. is focused on advancements to lidar, which will drive down costs and enable the vehicles to travel at higher speeds, she said.
âWe do believe in an all-electric future,â she said.
â Niraj Chokshi
Vice is nearing profitability
Nancy Dubuc, the newly installed chief executive of Vice Media, announced at the conference today that the company will be profitable by âthe next fiscal year.â That would be an important milestone for a business that was most recently valued at $5.7 billion.
âIt actually was profitable a couple years ago, and then with all the expansion and investment, we made it not profitable,â she said. âBut very, very quickly itâll be profitable again.â
Cost cutting will help. But Ms. Dubuc characterized the forthcoming changes as a way to become more efficient. âWhen you have expansion everywhere, youâre obviously going to have duplication everywhere too,â she said.
Vice started as a free punk magazine in Montreal in 1994 and has traded on its irreverent, brash tone to become a global media company with about 3,000 employees. Backed by media giants like the Walt Disney Company and 21st Century Fox, Vice now includes an advertising agency, a TV network, a film-production business and programs on HBO.
Ms. Dubuc, 49, also has the task of solving the companyâs longstanding issues with sexual harassment. In December, a New York Times investigation detailed the mistreatment of women at the company.
Vice founder Shane Smith responded to the article by pledging a series of changes, including pay equity and reaching gender parity within the work force. In a statement, he said, âfrom the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive.â
Ms. Dubuc praised Mr. Smith for his response.
âShane did a powerful thing and that was to take seriously the changes that needed to happen at Vice,â she said, later adding that her being named aschief executive was an important signal for the company to send.
âI could have a pretty dramatic impact,â she said.
â Edmund Lee
Finkâs social responsibility push: ânever did this to be in vogueâ
For someone who speaks often and loudly about taking a stand and doing good, Laurence D. Fink of BlackRock spends a lot of time thinking about gray areas.
Mr. Fink, the founder, chairman and chief executive of the worldâs largest asset manager, said that dropping out of Saudi Arabiaâs big investment conference last month was a âhard decision.â So was the choice earlier this year to offer investment options stripped of stocks in gun manufacturers and retailers.
âThese things are not black or white,â he said on Thursday at the DealBook conference in New York.
BlackRock has $6.5 trillion under management, giving it great influence over many of the worldâs top public companies. In a conversation that ranged from tariffs to bitcoin, Mr. Fink returned repeatedly to ideas about corporate accountability.
The billionaire investor Warren Buffett has said that he resists imposing his political views on his employees and clients because he is ânot their nanny on that.â
âIâm not a nanny either,â Mr. Fink said on Thursday. âIâm not telling companies what their purpose should be. But I do believe itâs up to the company to identify what their purpose is.â
Earlier this year, he sent an open letter pressing public firms to consider not just their bottom lines, but also the broader community â a social responsibility manifesto forged through years of personal experience, public pressure and secret meetings.
Mr. Fink withdrew last month from the high-profile investment conference in Riyadh amid allegations that Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist, had been murdered and dismembered at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Other executives â including Mr. Dimon, Stephen A. Schwarzman of Blackstone and Dara Khosrowshahi of Uber â also dropped out of the event. Despite his refusal to attend what he called a âvery public showcaseâ of the kingdomâs strengths, Mr. Fink said that BlackRock would continue to conduct business in Saudi Arabia, adding that he ânever believed that decision would cost us all the business.â
But he stressed that his attention to social responsibility is not a passing fad.
âI certainly never did this to be in vogue,â he said. âWeâre doing this because weâre being asked.â
â Tiffany Hsu
Steve Ballmer wants to provide a â10-K for governmentâ
Steve Ballmer, the former chief executive of Microsoft, concluded his presentation on Thursday with the results of a poll he recently helped run: 61 percent of the people surveyed cared about using researched facts to help form their opinions on policy, beating the 54 percent who said their values shaped their opinions.
For Mr. Ballmer, that is central to a project he has been working on since he retired as chief executive of Microsoft in 2014 and has poured millions of dollars into: USAFacts, a nonpartisan database of federal, state and local government revenue and spending.
âIâve spent the better part of four years trying to understand where government gets its revenue, where it spends its revenue,â Mr. Ballmer told the audience on Thursday.
In a wide-ranging presentation, Mr. Ballmer ran through some highlights of the types of data his website provides, hitting on hot-button issues in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.
Mr. Ballmer has called USAFacts âthe equivalent of a 10-K for government,â referring to the kind of annual financial filings that companies make. In charts, Mr. Ballmer showed how he believes USAFacts can help Americans filter the increasingly convoluted noise.
On immigration, for example, the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States rose from about 10.5 million to 12.1 million in recent years, according to USAFactsâ analysis of government data. The number of border agents has risen sharply from about 4,000 to 19,000 over the same period, while border apprehensions have decreased from roughly 1.7 million to 300,000, Mr. Ballmer said.
The numbers raise natural questions, Mr. Ballmer said. Why are there more border agents today, fewer apprehensions, but more undocumented immigrants?
â Mihir Zaveri
How can corporate America improve diversity?
David Gelles, Corner Office columnist at The New York Times, presented the findings of a DealBook conference task force on diversity in the workplace, characterizing it as a âreally lively discussionâ that could have gone on for hours. Nonetheless, âwe made a remarkable amount of progress in an hour,â he said.
Among the conclusions of the report:
â¢ Aspirational goals are in general a good thing, but theyâre not enough, said Stephanie Cohen, chief strategy officer for Goldman Sachs. Companies also need to be transparent in how theyâre achieving those goals. In addition, there canât be separate business and diversity scorecards â diversity needs to be part of the business.
â¢ Legislation and federal policies need to play a role. John Hope Bryant, founder and chief executive of Operation HOPE spoke about the need for a federal policy to give credit to companies that offer internships and apprenticeships, and when the effort is especially aimed at women and people of color, âyou should get a double credit for that double reach,â he said.
â¢ Companies have to realize diversity is a long-term goal, and it has to be baked into its culture. âYou can have policy and tactics, but if the culture is not ready to receive it,â it wonât work, said Thasunda Duckett, the chief executive of consumer banking at JP Morgan Chase. And everyone has to join the conversation, she said.
How can we use A.I. ethically?
Rebecca Blumenstein, the deputy managing editor of New York Times, described the conversations of a DealBook conference task force, intended to establish guidelines on how to ethically implement A.I., as one of the âhighest level discussions she has ever seenâ about the technology.
Among the conclusions of the panel:
â¢ Microsoft announced last month that it would sell military and intelligence agencies whatever advanced technologies they needed for the countryâs defense, a move that came amid scrutiny over tech companiesâ role in the development of next-generation cyberweapons. The task force concluded on Thursday that a partnership between tech companies and government is a good thing. The government should have access to the best technology available, said Microsoftâs executive vice president of business development Peggy Johnson.
â¢ Companies should take care to scrutinize their machine learning initiatives (and algorithms in general) for biases that may be passed on from their creators, said Dipayan Ghosh, a Pozen Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. These technologies should be developed with greater consideration for the public interest.
â¢ In New York City, when considering artificial intelligence in transportation, companies should be transparent with the data they use in order to ensure the technologies are a benefit to society, said Cordell Schachter, the chief technology officer of the New York City Department of Transportation.
â Mihir Zaveri