Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), which had $48.2 billion in cash as of Dec. 31, is urging shareholders to vote against a proposal for the board to consider paying a “meaningful” dividend.
Directors review annually whether to retain all earnings, and will follow previously stated principles about capital management, according to a proxy filing today. Buffett has said the company hasn’t paid a dividend because he’s been able to generate better returns for investors by pursuing takeovers, buying securities and investing in subsidiaries like MidAmerican Energy and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.
Shareholder David Witt, who has a stake valued at about $8,650 based on yesterday’s closing price, proposed the measure, stating that Berkshire has “more money than it needs” and that the board should consider the investors who aren’t billionaires. Buffett, the chairman and chief executive officer, became the world’s second-richest person by building Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire over more than four decades.
“Our first priority with available funds will always be to examine whether they can be intelligently deployed in our various businesses,” Buffett, 83, wrote to shareholders in a letter last year. “Our shareholders are far wealthier today than they would be if the funds we used for acquisitions had instead been devoted to share repurchases or dividends.”
Berkshire’s board also urged shareholders to reject a proposal that it set goals for reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions by its energy businesses. The annual meeting is scheduled for May 3 in Omaha.
Buffett’s salary remained $100,000 and has been at that level for more than a quarter century, Berkshire said in the filing. His total compensation was listed at about $485,000, including personal and home security provided by the company.
Vice Chairman Charles Munger, 90, also collects a $100,000 salary. Chief Financial Officer Marc Hamburg’s salary climbed to $1.13 million last year from $1.03 million in 2012.
Munger has also said Berkshire pursued the right course by reinvesting funds rather than paying a dividend.
“I think that some of you will live to see a Berkshire dividend, but I hope I don’t,” Munger said in 2011.
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