Now raising intellectual capital

from Rolfe Winkler:

Buffett lets public down…again

The public has always seen in Warren Buffett a different kind of capitalist, an honest observer providing sound financial advice regardless of his personal interests. But is he?

When it comes to his own holdings Buffett seems to use a carefully cultivated reputation for financial rectitude to feather his own nest.

On Wednesday he came out against Obama's proposed bank tax, but his comments were inconsistent. On one hand he's always maintained banks needed to be bailed out, yet he opposes ways to make them pay for it. At this point, financial giants in which Buffett has large stakes -- Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and General Electric -- all benefit from an implicit too-big-to-fail government insurance policy. How can Mr. Buffett, an insurance executive, argue that it's inappropriate to charge them for it?

This is just the latest example of Buffett talking his book.

Buffett also lobbied for and profited greatly from the bailouts. He invested in Goldman, he said, with the expectation that Congress would "do the right thing" by passing the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In other words, it was a bet on a bailout.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Buffett: Shareholder activist

Shareholder activism is a tactic typical of Carl Icahn, not the Oracle of Omaha. Yet Warren Buffett has issued a press release asking other Kraft shareholders to reject Kraft's proposal to use up to 370 million shares of stock to buy Cadbury.

To state the matter simply, a shareholder voting "yes" today is authorizing a huge transaction without knowing its cost or the means of payment.

A bet on America? More like a bet on a black future

“Warren Buffett bets $27 billion on America” was how the FT greeted Berkshire Hathaway’s acquisition of the biggest train set in the West. Heritage, romance, aesthetics, and a green tinge to boot, those babies have everything. You can almost hear that ol’ whistle blowing.

 But what’s that in the trucks behind the magnificent machines? Well, coal, mostly. Burlington Northern Santa Fe, as Buffett’s new train set is called, carries 600 million tons of the dirty black stuff, but thanks to the suitably black arts of the marketing department, it’s portrayed as clean coal, because the output from the Powder River Basin has less sulphur than the stuff from the Appalachians.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Buffett’s imaginary economy

Warren Buffett is back as the nation's financial conscience, publishing an op-ed in yesterday's NYT lamenting the dangers of too much monetary and fiscal stimulus. As regular readers of this blog are aware, that's a message with which I wholeheartedly agree. My problem with Buffett's piece is that he makes a good argument and then totally undercuts it in his conclusion:

Our immediate problem is to get our country back on its feet and flourishing — “whatever it takes” still makes sense. Once recovery is gained, however, Congress must end the rise in the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio and keep our growth in obligations in line with our growth in resources.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Buffett’s Betrayal

When I was 14, Warren Buffett wrote me a letter.

It was a response to one I'd sent him, pitching an investment idea.  For a kid interested in learning stocks, Buffett was a great role model.  His investing style -- diligent security analysis, finding competent management, patience -- was immediately appealing.

Buffett was kind enough to respond to my letter, thanking me for it and inviting me to his company's annual meeting.  I was hooked.  Today, Buffett remains famous for investing The Right Way.  He even has a television cartoon in the works, which will groom the next generation of acolytes.

Who will be CIT’s Buffett?

The behind-the-scene negotiations surrounding CIT Group’s threatened bankruptcy filing is bringing to mind the 2001 collapse of Finova, another sizeable mid-market lender.

 On the eve of Finova’s bankruptcy filing in March 2001, Warren Buffett seemingly came to the rescue with a $6 billion loan package to help keep the financial firm running in bankruptcy and payoff creditors. The financial package, which Buffett put together with Leucadia National Corporation, came from a new company called Berkadia.