Dem Billionaire Warren Buffett Urged to Disclose Company's Political Spending

Buffett resists push for greater transparency at Berkshire Hathaway

Billionaire businessman Warren Buffett applauds Hillary Clinton in 2016 / Getty Images
May 3, 2017

Shareholder advisory firms are recommending that Democratic billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway start disclosing its political spending to the public, according to a Fox Business report.

The two advisory firms, Glass Lewis & Co. and Institutional Shareholder Services, say the firm's current disclosure practices are insufficient and that it is unclear if its board of directors is even overseeing political spending.

Buffett, ranked as the second-richest person in the world with $75.6 billion, opposes the increase in transparency, arguing that Berkshire Hathaway makes no political contributions. However, he acknowledged that Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries do make political contributions.

"Berkshire Hathaway—the parent company—has never made a contribution to any presidential candidate (nor any other political candidate) during my 52 years as CEO," Buffett told Fox Business. "I am sure that some of our subsidiaries—in particular those in heavily regulated industries—make political contributions and employ lobbyists."

Buffett has been an active political donor for Democratic candidates and groups for over three decades, most recently contributing the maximum allowed amount to Hillary Clinton and an additional $25,000 to the two-time failed presidential candidate's super PAC.

Buffett has contributed over $500,000 to Democratic candidates and committees, but this is a small fraction of his political activity.

The NoVo Foundation funded by Buffett signed on in 2015 as a partner of the Democracy Alliance, a liberal dark money group that secretly funnels money to recommended organizations through partner groups such as Buffett's.

Buffett's longtime Berkshire Hathaway partner Charles Munger, worth $1.45 billion, is tied to the Democracy Alliance through his son.

The call for greater transparency at Berkshire Hathaway comes a year after the company was federally investigated for predatory lending practices that targeted minority borrowers.

Buffett controls 32.7 percent of voting shares at Berkshire Hathaway, so the call for increased political transparency is unlikely to pass at this weekend's annual board meeting in Nebraska unless he has a change of heart.

Buffett said supporters of the push for more disclosure "will be given a reasonable amount of time to state their case."