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Reuters: Trump’s genial private meetings with CEOs jar with public attacks

When the bosses of some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies headed to Washington in January to meet U.S. President Donald Trump, it had all the makings of a potentially hostile meeting.

Just weeks before, Trump had sent drug stock prices plummeting after accusing the companies of “getting away with murder” by charging too much for medicines.

But the Trump who greeted chief executives on Jan. 31 was a surprisingly genial host who even gave them a personal tour of the Oval Office, according to several participants in the breakfast.

“There is no question that it was better than it could have been or we thought it could be,” said one industry insider familiar with the meeting.

Trump did not repeat his public attacks on the industry. Instead, he focused on “outdated” regulations that drive costs up for drugmakers, according to participants interviewed by Reuters. The CEOs left with Trump’s word that he would streamline regulations and reform the high U.S. corporate tax rate.

An Amgen spokeswoman said Trump made it clear that he wanted to work with the company on U.S. job creation and biotech innovation. Representatives of the other drugmakers declined to comment.

But:

As recently as Tuesday, Trump tweeted he was working on a system to increase competition in the health industry and lower drug pricing, sending pharma shares lower.

The Reuters report shows a number of company share price fluctuations that may have been a result of Trump’s public comments.

“He said one thing for the cameras and the door shuts and then it’s like kumbaya,” said one person who was briefed on a meeting between Trump and a group of CEOs.

“He likes to be seen as engaging and buddy buddy with other big important business leaders,” said this person.

The degree he seems to want to involve himself personally in business matters is unprecedented. It could achieve some positive things but it has significant risks.

Trump’s unpredictability and his different public/private personas could easily result in unintended consequences. Financial and share markets tend to react to uncertainty.