Buffett Opposes Proposal to Disclose Political Donations

  • Berkshire shareholder proposals target fossil fuels, methane
  • Proponents to get ‘reasonable’ time at annual meeting

Warren Buffett.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. investors will have a chance to vote on three shareholder resolutions opposed by Chairman Warren Buffett and his board, including a call for the firm to disclose any political contributions.

Other proposals by shareholders would push Berkshire to divest holdings in companies that produce fossil fuels, and set targets for cutting methane emissions related to its operations, according to a proxy filing issued Friday. Berkshire said that its board unanimously opposes all three proposals.

Buffett said last month that the formal shareholder meeting to be held during Berkshire’s annual gathering on May 6 in Omaha, Nebraska, will be extended by a larger-than-usual number of investor proposals, without offering details of the resolutions.

“It will run an hour or so,” Buffett, who is also chief executive officer, said in his annual letter to shareholders. “That is somewhat longer than usual because three proxy items are to be presented by their proponents, who will be given a reasonable amount of time to state their case.”

Read more: Activists Crash Buffett’s Omaha Party

Tom Beers and Mary Durfee, joint owners of 100 shares of Class B stock, proposed that Berkshire provide semiannual reports on all political spending, including identities of recipients and of the company officials who made the decision to contribute. Berkshire said it already complies with disclosure requirements. The parent company makes no contributions, and “during the past several years, political contributions of Berkshire subsidiaries have been less than $10 million per year,” according to the filing.

Berkshire isn’t accustomed to dealing with three shareholder resolutions in a single meeting. In most years since 2000, there has been just one proposal or none. All were opposed by the company and easily defeated by investors. Still, his meetings draw such a crowd that they have attracted activists seeking to highlight causes from the environment to human rights.

At last year’s meeting, the Nebraska Peace Foundation, owner of one Class A share, called on Berkshire to disclose how climate change will affect insurance subsidiaries. More than 500,000 shares were voted against the idea, with about 71,000 in favor. The foundation returned this year with the resolution urging Berkshire to divest fossil fuel-related investments.

Berkshire’s stated opposition to any shareholder proposal would represent the views of Buffett, the 86-year-old investor who built the company over five decades into a behemoth with a market value exceeding $420 billion. He holds more than a third of the Class A shares, and investors who enjoyed compounded annual gains of almost 21 percent under Buffett’s leadership have supported his recommendations.

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