Warren Buffett is worth upwards of $86 billion, runs a $500-billion financial services company, is an avowed philanthropist and was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential campaign.
He also thinks his personal political views shouldn’t change how he does business.
After the Parkland, Florida school shooting that left 17 dead, companies from banks to airlines have been rethinking how they are tied to the gun industry, either through investments, credit channels, or NRA sponsorships. To Buffett, the answer is clear: “I don’t believe in imposing my views on 370,000 employees and a million shareholders. I’m not their nanny on that,” Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, told CNBC.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Andrew Ross Sorkin suggested credit-card companies, like Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, could stop supporting (paywall) sellers of assault weapons. (PayPal, Square, Stripe and Apple Pay announced long ago that their services could not be used in the sale of firearms.)
If the credit-card companies won’t cut ties, Sorkin argues, banks certainly can. The First National Bank of Omaha had ended its relationship with the National Rifle Association (NRA). MetLife Insurance, Symantec security software, and TrueCar are also among those that have broke ties with the organization (paywall). Delta and United Airlines also announced they would end discount programs with the NRA.
Buffett is arguably the most important person in the US banking industry. His holdings company, at any given moment, has millions invested in many companies, and, as of September 2017, is the biggest owner of of Bank of America and Wells Fargo shares. Buffett’s main goal in 2018 is to find a worthy investment for the $116 billion he has in cash.
Buffett believes people, including company leaders, should individually publicize their views. But he doesn’t think his personal viewpoint should influence the financial decisions of his company.
He did tell CNBC he didn’t think Berkshire Hathaway had any gun investments.
Still, Berkshire Hathaway has owned and invested in businesses with questionable practices in the past. Buffett has offered no apologies for alleged predatory lending practices of Clayton Homes, a company his company owns, and Berkshire Hathaway continued to invest in Wells Fargo amid what the Fed described as “widespread consumer abuses and compliance breakdowns.” That scandal cost the bank $185 million in fines.
This post has been updated with background on Berkshire Hathaway’s holdings in Clayton Homes and Wells Fargo
Correction: Andrew Ross Sorkin suggested credit-card companies could stop supporting sellers of assault weapons, not automatic weapons. Berkshire Hathaway is the biggest owner of Bank of America and Wells Fargo stock, not a majority owner.