CNBC: What does your portfolio look like?
Nader: I invest in things that support our work. High-dividend stocks. Independent partnerships. Wind companies. I have my own screening. There are certain things I won't touch—nuclear things, military. I'm not going to buy AIG shares and Wall Street shenanigans. I'm not going to buy Monsanto or nanotechnology stocks.
CNBC: Why not nanotechnology?
Nader: It has no legal framework. All you hear are its plusses. But at some point you're going to have a microchip in your hair recording everything.
CNBC: Come on.
Nader: Really. The two most tumultuous technologies: genetic engineering and nanotechnology. Neither have any legal and ethical framework.
(Watch: Morgan Stanley's vice chairman on shareholder activism)
CNBC: What's the scorecard on the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?
Nader: It's a good start. The history of regulatory agencies is full of good starts. The worry is that they'll increasingly be captured. They're already under the Federal Reserve.
CNBC: It's five years to the day after Bernie Madoff was discovered. Are Americans any safer from this kind of fraud now?
Nader: It's hard for me to believe the SEC could incur a second Bernie Madoff. But in a way, he stood behind his own fraud. ... We're now dealing with anonymous corporate entitles that are headed by people whose name nobody knows, who can shift their strategies. It could easily happen again and again institutionally.
CNBC: People have been shining a spotlight on corporate reforms for years. Nothing changes.
Nader: The reformers become very discouraged themselves. There's a satiety that sets in. They start exaggerating what it takes to turn it around. But the moment you say you're powerless, you are. If we don't move from analysis to existential action on the ground, we'll be analyzing forever as the world crumbles.
CNBC: Do you think Carl Icahn will donate?
Nader: He's Princeton ('57). We do things.
CORRECTION: This version corrected a typographical error in Nader's response about the value of Cisco Systems' cash balance. It was $45 billion.
—By Elizabeth MacBride, Special to CNBC.com