Sunday, 3 March 2013

Warren Buffett - A Friend to Shareholders

In The Office, Steve Carrell's Michael Scott, a manager at dying paper company Dunder Mifflin, hosts the "Dundies," an annual award ceremony put on to recognize the staff's accomplishments.  In that same spirit, this writer will award a "Friendly" to acknowledge behavior that is beneficial to shareholders, whether it comes from managers, investors, members of the media, or elsewhere.  These prestigious awards will be handed out from time to time, rather than annually, and without the accompanying evening at Chili's, where the not-so-grateful employees of Dunder Mifflin met to receive their awards.

And the award goes to...Warren Buffett

It's fitting that the first "Friendly" has been earned by Warren Buffett, history's most thoughtful, convincing and prominent advocate of shareholder-friendly behavior.  In a remarkable move - and a first, to my knowledge - Buffett has invited a "bear" to join the cast of analysts that will pose questions to himself and Vice-Chairman Charlie Munger at the upcoming annual meeting.  The person must be an investment professional with a negative outlook on Berkshire, preferably holding a short position.  Most CEO's would sooner invite an actual bear to the AGM than face the paw-swipe or bite of a short-seller, but Buffett's commitment to openness, transparency and the free expression of ideas is authentic.  A range of perspectives are necessary to an efficiently functioning market, and Buffett is helping ensure that Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are alert to the challenges facing the company, not just the opportunities.  Bravo, Mr. Buffett.

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