The Wrong Standard

The Wrong Standard.

  • Barron's (reg req): The Most Respected CEOs. (Warren)
    Buffett is the ultimate example of a CEO who counts — Berkshire
    Hathaway wouldn't exist without him. Some worrywarts at Barron's were
    concerned about putting him on the list because of the ongoing
    investigation into a potentially dubious reinsurance contract that
    Berkshire's General Re unit provided to American International Group.
    That deal may not have represented Berkshire's finest hour, but it in
    no way diminishes Buffett's extraordinary achievement. Berkshire stock
    stood at 15 when he took over 40 years ago and it's now at $87,000 a
    share. That pretty much says it all.
  • First, a
    disclosure: I am an investor in Berkshire Hathaway, and have been since
    the mid-1980s. More than not, I admire Warren Buffett as a visionary
    and an advocate of honest capitalism. In particular, his loud
    complaints against sleazy accounting tricks and excessive pay for
    unaccountable executives who use those tricks to help pad insiders'
    pockets have been a welcome part of the conversation we all need to
    have about the nature and future of a system that, while imperfect, is
    plainly the best of the alternatives.
    That's also why I get frustrated by the anything-goes attitude on Wall
    Street and in Washington and so many other places where cynical people
    ignore the context in which capitalism operates. Corporations are
    creatures of the state, not God, and they exist in a real world where
    employees, suppliers and communities should be, but frequently are not,
    given sufficient consideration next to pursuit of profits. A
    spectacular return on investment does not pretty much say it all. It
    tells only part of the story.
    If it turns out that Berkshire Hathaway has played a significant role
    in the growing insurance scandal, that would be more than a passing
    thought in my book. It would be an unfortunate contribution to the
    unethical culture that has become such a dismal hallmark of American
    business in recent years.
    Buffett has earned the benefit of the doubt. But he has some questions
    to answer.
    I hope Barron's — like its sister publication, the Wall Street
    Journal, a newspaper of depth and influence — will be asking those
    questions. [Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism, Etc.]

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