CEOs of top US firms held a private meeting to discuss what to do if Trump's refusal to concede to Biden becomes a threat to democracy

  • More than 24 CEOs of Fortune 500 firms met on November 6 to discuss what to do if President Donald Trump refuses to leave office on January 20, according to the Yale professor who organized the meeting.
  • The CEOs said Trump had the right to pursue legal challenges alleging voter fraud, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld told AP.
  • But they also spoke about making public statements, and pressuring GOP legislators, should Trump's refusal to concede threaten a peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden, Sonnenfeld said.
  • The executives were from finance, manufacturing, retail, and media companies, he said.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Three days after Election Day, CEOs of major US companies met privately to talk about what they would do if President Donald Trump refuses to leave the White House.

More than 24 CEOs participated in an hour-long video conference on November 6 to discuss taking possible collective action should Trump's ongoing refusal to concede to President-elect Joe Biden become a threat to democracy, AP reported Friday.

The business leaders were from Fortune 500 finance, manufacturing, retail, and media companies, according to Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor who convened the November 6 meeting, per AP.

Sonnenfeld wouldn't identify the CEOs because they attended the conference under the condition that their names remained confidential.

The executives agreed Trump had the right to pursue legal challenges alleging voter fraud, Sonnenfeld said.

But the CEOs discussed making public statements if Trump tried to disrupt a peaceful transition to Biden, he said. They also talked about putting pressure on GOP legislators in their states who may try to redirect Electoral College votes to Trump, he said. 

Trump has asked aides about a plan to remain in office by subverting the Electoral College, The New York Times reported Thursday.

"They're all fine with him taking an appeal to the court, to a judicial process," Sonnenfeld said, per AP. "They didn't want to deny him that. But that doesn't stop the transition. They said if that makes people feel better, it doesn't hurt anything to let that grind through."

Timothy Snyder, Yale University historian and author of "On Tyranny," spoke at the meeting about the history of democracies dying post-election, and about GOP legislators possibly changing the Electoral College result. After this, many of the executives raised concerns about Trump's behaviour, Sonnenfeld said.

Richard Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University who participated in the conference, confirmed Sonnenfeld's account. One CEO who preferred to remain anonymous also confirmed it, per AP.

Insider and Decision Desk HQ called the 2020 election for Joe Biden the same day as the meeting.

Read more: San Francisco has enacted a new 'CEO tax.' It's for companies that 'overpay' their CEOs.

The following day, the Business Roundtable, a group that represents CEOs of major US companies such as Apple and Walmart, congratulated President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris in a statement.

It echoed the reported remarks made at the CEOs' video conference about Trump's right to investigate vote counting, but added: "There is no indication that any of these would change the outcome."

Sonnenfeld told AP that he had also spoken with six or seven CEOs who said that if any "seditious riots" happen at Trump rallies, or if Trump mass-fires officials, they would want to meet again to discuss how to act faster.

"They thought it could have a very devastating effect upon on markets, on public trust in the process," Sonnenfeld said, adding that the CEOs would act "to make sure that the Republican elected officials do their jobs and then be patriots and respect the process."

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