Monday, September 24, 2007

Warren Buffett's Genocidal Investments

“ ... I’m not surprised to hear that a man like Warren Buffett believes there's nothing he can't conquer based on his money. ... ” - Father Richard Dillon, professor of theology, Fordham University

Warren Buffett Is An Equal Opportunity Genocide Supporter
By David Weidner, MarketWatch

... Last week, Berkshire Hathaway shareholders voted against a resolution to reverse the actions of PacifiCorp, a Berkshire subsidiary, that is apparently endangering the salmon population (and lowering the water quality) in the Northwest.

And the buck does not stop with the fish. Buffett's acolytes also shot down a call to sell Berkshire's $3.3 billion stake in PetroChina (based in Beijing).

According to Weidner, the PC(U) subsidiary in the Sudan pays the government for the right to produce oil there, and those payments "support the Sudanese government and its military efforts."

Despite being told by shareholder Judith Porter that selling Berkshire's stake "will send a signal to China and to the Sudan that there are costs for continuing this destruction," Buffett backed the investment, arguing that it has nothing to do with what's going on, and that it's the Chinese government condoning the action in Darfur.

Says Weidner of the development: "Hey, if you could make a few bucks dealing with someone you know is helping hide a serial killer, why say anything? It probably wouldn't help, right?" Well no one's going to say yes to that.
Buffett: Give peace a chance, when I'm gone

Commentary: Help is not on the way to Darfur, Berkshire shareholders say
By David Weidner, MarketWatch

Last Update: 12:01 AM ET May 10, 2007

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Here's hoping that Warren Buffett isn't with us as chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for much longer, or at least that he has a change of heart.

The world will be better off.

Nearly a year after Buffett pledged to give $37 billion of his personal wealth to charity, the 76-year-old and his shareholder flock at Berkshire (BRKA:

116,900.00, -200.00, -0.2%) shot down a series of do-gooder proposals that would have required the company to spare some profits in the name of social responsibility, and maybe saving a few lives.

Buffett and his followers believe it doesn't matter how you make your money, as long as you give it away when you're dead. Embrace businesses such as PetroChina Co. Ltd. (PTR: 181.12, +13.90, +8.3%) -- which arguably is aiding the genocide in Darfur by investing in the Sudanese government's oil explorations -- or risk that extra penny a share in profit.

St. Warren is like a poker player who has won all of the chips, but hands you one or two to keep playing just so he can take them from you again.

PetroChina connection

Last year, I criticized the attention paid to Buffett for his pledge that his estate would hand over most of his wealth when he died. The billionaire gave a generous gift, but giving and sacrifice are different qualities often confused by observers in the media (this columnist included). See full story.

Today, little seems to have changed. At the urging of management, shareholders last weekend voted down resolutions to require more disclosure of the company's political contributions and also to reverse the actions of a Berkshire subsidiary, PacifiCorp, believed to be endangering salmon populations and lowering water quality in the Northwest.

But it was a resolution calling for Berkshire to sell a $3.3 billion stake in Beijing-based PetroChina that caused the biggest uproar. The PetroChina subsidiary in Sudan pays the government for the right to produce oil there.

Those payments, human-rights advocates say, support the Sudanese government and its military efforts.

Shareholder Judith Porter stood before 27,000 investors at the company's annual meeting in Omaha, Neb., and told Buffett that dumping the Berkshire stake "will send a signal to China and to the Sudan that there are costs for continuing this destruction," according to reports.

Buffett defended the investment by arguing that it's the Chinese government that's condoning the actions in Darfur. Furthermore, he said, even if Berkshire divested or Buffett complained, it wouldn't matter.

"PetroChina in no way tells the Chinese government what to do," Buffett was quoted as saying. "We have no disagreement with what PetroChina is doing."

He could see "no effect whatsoever in Berkshire Hathaway trying to tell the Chinese government how to conduct their business."

Hey, if you could make a few bucks dealing with someone you know is helping hide a serial killer, why say anything? It probably wouldn't help, right?

Before all you Buffett fans write me to complain, know this: When it comes to investing, it's one thing to follow an unrivaled businessman and investor. When it comes to moral decisions, Warren Buffett should not be your choice.

This isn't to say that he does not have a better track record than his peers in American business, but to say that Buffett is in business for himself and his shareholders.

Everyone else can wait until he's dead.

Big Coincidence

It was refreshing to the see the Securities and Exchange Commission take action, any action, against the people responsible for big trades in anticipation of deals for Dow Jones & Co. (DJ: 59.40, -0.16, -0.3%) and TXU Corp. (TXU)

68.00, +0.01, +0.0%).

Dow Jones is the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires and MarketWatch.

It turns out some regulators suspect that a family friend of a Dow Jones board member might have used inside information to make $18 million on the stock after the deal became public. Federal authorities also arrested Hafiz Muhammad Naseem, a Credit Suisse Group (CS: 65.95, -0.44, -0.7%) banker who worked in the bank's energy group in New York, for alleged insider trades in TXU. ...
Why Doesn’t Warren Buffett Want To Fund Genocide Anymore?

For reasons totally lost on us, Warren Buffett has once again scaled back Berkshire Hathaway’s stake in PetroChina. In July, Berk sold holdings in the company worth $27 million. Last week, it was $136 million. And just today, 28 million shares valued at $40 million, reducing BRK’s interest to a paltry 8.93 percent from over 11 percent this year.

For those of you who don’t know what this means, we’ll tell you what this means: slowly but surely, Warren Buffett is distancing himself from a government-run company that human rights activists claim has extensive involvement with the Sudan oil industry, and perpetuates what they call “the humanitarian crisis” in Darfur. (This is an overly dramatic way of spinning the truth, which is simply that the region is going through a restructuring of its population.)

Until fairly recently, Buffett had stood up to the anti-genocists, including BRK shareholder Judith Porter, who told WB that cutting ties with PTR would “send a signal to China and to the Sudan that there are costs for continuing this destruction." Buffett argued that he and Berkshire had nothing to do with the “situation,” and that Judy and everyone else ought to quit their bitching. And when asked if today’s and last week’s and July’s sale had anything to do with a decision to take responsibility for aiding and abet serial killers, he said no. And analysts are in agreement: they think it’s just about “the money.”

But we know they’re lying. Nobody wants to admit it, but something’s going on with that old kook, and he’s going soft. Is it the new, young, probably liberal wife’s influence? A sudden fear that John Carney, against all odds, might’ve been onto something when he asked, “is Warren Buffett going to hell?” The fact that in May, two months before he started selling, we called him an “Equal Opportunity Genocide Supporter”? (That was a compliment!) A near-death, life-changing experience? An Oreo Blizzard epiphany?

Don’t answer that. ‘Cause we don’t want to know why this happening, we just want it fixed. Let things go back to the way they were, and no one gets hurt (except maybe the Sudanese. Whatever: details). If we isolate the problem now, we may be able to salvage this thing, but we have to act fast. Today he sells a percentage of his stake in PetroChina for allegedly purely monetary reasons. Tomorrow it could be standing up in a local Dairy Queen and saying “not on my watch.” I just pray it’s not too late.

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