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Buffett: Saying no to pay plans is like 'belching'

Warren Buffett said in his 55 years as a director he has never heard anyone say in a board meeting they were against a pay plan put forward by a company's compensation committee.

In a live interview on CNBC, Buffett admitted he had voted for compensation plans that he didn't like. "Taking on a (compensation) committee is a little bit like belching at the dinner table... You can't do it too often. If you do, you find you're eating in the kitchen pretty soon."

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Buffett was being asked about his decision to abstain Berkshire Hathaway's 400 million share stake in the vote over a controversial equity compensation plan at Coca-Cola, even though he thought it was "excessive."

Here's the excerpt from our unofficial transcript:

BUFFETT: I've been on boards for 55 years—19 public boards—I've never heard of a vote against the compensation plan voted by a compensation committee. What happens in a board, I—I think people sometimes have a mistaken notion of how boards act. But—the compensation committee comes in, they've worked for a few hours, maybe a few days, they've had consultants. And—and they say, "We've approved this plan." I've never yet heard at any of the 19 boards I was on, anybody say in the meeting they were against it. And I've had—heard a few say it outside of the meeting. But—but taking on a committee that's reported, you've assigned—the job to the committee, and they—taking them on, it is a little bit like belching at the dinner table. I mean, you can't do it too often. (LAUGH) If you do, you find you're eating in the kitchen pretty soon.

BECKY: Did you ever vote for something when you were on a board that you disagreed with?

BUFFETT: Sure.

BECKY: Like what?

BUFFETT: Well, I've voted for compensation plans that I haven't agreed with. But I—I've even sort of muttered a yes on—on some mergers that (LAUGH) I didn't think made any sense. But that—it happens.


By CNBC's Alex Crippen. Follow him on Twitter: @alexcrippen