Sunday, May 3, 2009

Notes on Buffett & Points of View - May 3

Buffett Speaks at the Berkshire Hathaway Meeting - Berkshire Hathaway had its annual shareholder meeting on Saturday, and Chairman Warren Buffett once again thrilled the masses. He discussed the housing market (says there are signs of stabilization), how Geico is stealing market share (low cost insurer), and that newspapers face the possibility of "unending losses" (Berkshire owns a stake in the Washington Post).

In the company's annual movie, Buffett appears as a mattress salesman trying to persuade a customer to buy a mattress. The "Warren" has too many ups and downs, so the customer finally decides on the "Nervous Nelly" that allows you to stuff everything you own inside it.

In all seriousness though, Buffett said that CEO pay should be limited through embarrassment. Regulations have always backfired in the past, so why not just use the press and public outrage when a CEO is grossly overpaid?

Vice Chairman Charlie Munger told shareholders that Wells Fargo will emerge stronger from the current banking crisis. While Buffett said that when Wells Fargo stock fell below $9 he had been teaching a class on investing. According to Buffett told the class that if he was able to put all his net worth in one stock at that moment, it would have been in shares of Wells Fargo.

Points of View

Shotgun Wedding - By Alan Abelson - Barron's - "As Barack Obama confessed in his review of his first hundred days as president, is no piece of cake. Whether it's the Taliban running wild in Pakistan or the Republicans running wild in Congress, the Iraqis shooting each other up in Baghdad or Joe Biden shooting off his mouth in D.C., erstwhile world-class banks begging for handouts, the swine-flu epidemic, the dented remnants of our auto industry desperately embracing bankruptcy or flirting with it -- it's one darn stressful thing after another."

The Swiss and Their Secrets - The New York Times - "Switzerland’s president has offered a deal. He said it would be easier to complete a new bilateral tax treaty if Washington dropped its legal action against UBS, the Swiss bank that tens of thousands of wealthy Americans have used to hide their money from the I.R.S."

'Shrink to Win' Isn't Much of a Strategy - By Peggy Noonan - The Wall Street Journal - "Someday years hence, when books are written about the Republican comeback, they may well begin with this low moment, and the bolting of Arlen Specter to the Democrats."

Congress (Rightly) Rejects Cramdowns - Investor's Business Daily - "A bill to let bankruptcy courts rewrite mortgages fails in the Senate. Government's forcing of banks to put people into unaffordable homes created the housing crisis. Forcing banks to keep them there won't solve it."

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