Roger Lowenstein: Buffett on the Spot
Roger Lowenstein, a biography author of Warren Buffett has voiced his question in a featured article in Newsweek this week, entitle Buffett on the Spot.
The issue troubles Lowenstein the most is the David Sokol incident, and he wish Buffett could address in the annual meeting: Sokol was clearly too close to (if not over) the line, and Buffett’s refusal to acknowledge the fact is the most glaring example of ethical obtuseness in his career. His fans in Omaha will be hoping that he reconsiders, but publicly rebuking a lieutenant to whom he felt deeply grateful may be outside his prowess. Commentators such as Michael Steinhardt, a retired hedge-fund manager, have reveled in Buffett’s alleged moral defrocking as evidence that his reputation was overblown. Buffett, in fact, would benefit were his public to reconcile itself to his imperfections. To assert his uniqueness is not to say he is innocent of emotional complications, outsize ambition, or other human freight. Berkshire should draw a valuable lesson and recast its board—now dominated by close Buffett cronies. If the Sokol affair proved anything, it is that the 80-year-old Buffett should not be excused from the independent scrutiny to which other CEOs are subject. But assuming it is not repeated, the Sokol episode shouldn’t dislodge Buffett’s standing as the era’s greatest investor, and the one financier of the past 50 years who put an estimable face on Wall Street.
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