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Warren Buffett told shareholders that Berkshire abstained in a vote over Coca-Cola's controversial executive pay plan because he didn't "want to go to war" with the company but did want to express his unhappiness with a plan he called "excessive."
Speaking before roughly 38,000 shareholders at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting in Omaha, Buffett said abstaining was the "most effective way" for him to make a "clear statement" opposing the plan. "I don't think going to war is a very good idea in most cases."
Buffett said there's a social dimension to being on a board. Even "independent" directors aren't really all that independent because they often want to keep a prestigious job that pays well and has relatively few duties.
When choosing board members, "They do not look for Dobermans. They look for Cocker Spaniels and then they make sure their tails are wagging."
Operating earnings for Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway fell 6.6 percent to $3.533 billion in the first quarter. That's down from $3.782 billion a year ago.
Per-share operating earnings of $2,149 fell short of the consensus estimate of $2,172 by the relatively few analysts who follow the company.
A drop for Berkshire's insurance operations was the biggest negative for the quarter. Profits there fell to $461 million from $901 million in the year-ago period.
Berkshire's BNSF railroad, along with its utilities and energy companies, contributed $1.176 billion to the earnings total.
The analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods who covers Berkshire Hathaway wasn't invited to join the panel asking questions during the marathon Q&A session that anchors the company's annual shareholders meeting in Omaha.
Meyer Shields is suggesting his "exclusion" may be related to his "occasionally critical analysis."
Warren Buffett told CNBC he's surprised that housing is not that strong yet.
"The pickup in housing has been slower than I would have anticipated," the Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO said in the interview that aired Friday. "It's [also] true in the secondary market for houses. The prices have recovered some."
In February 2012, Buffett told "Squawk Box" he thought single-family homes were a very attractive investment. If held for a long period and purchased at low rates, he said, houses can be a better investment than even stocks.
Fast forward to spring 2014, Buffett said that housing is better than it was a couple of years ago, "but if you look at transactions and pending transactions in March, it's not booming."
As his faithful followers flock to Omaha, Nebraska, for Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholders meeting on Saturday, Buffett also addressed a wide range of other topics, including jobs, the economy, and how Coca-Cola is taking a second look at its controversial equity compensation plan for executives.
The biggest change over the past 25 years in terms of investing is that it's less expensive for the little guy, billionaire Warren Buffett told CNBC on Tuesday.
Buyers of stocks incur little in the way of trading costs compared to other investments like real estate, he said on "Squawk Box" after being named No. 6 on the CNBC 25 list of the most influential people in business over the past quarter century.
"Commissions are a lot lower than they were 25 years ago. Spreads between the bid and ask are less."
But on the other side, the commissions that professional money managers charge clients has gone up. "If you look at the fee extracted on Wall Street on balance, they've gotten quite substantial compared to 25 years ago," he said.
But the Oracle of Omaha saw omissions on the list in former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and his successor at Treasury, Tim Geithner.
"In 2008, our [financial] system was saved by a few people," he said. "We would be living in a much different country today had it not been for Hank and [Ben] Bernanke and I would say Tim Geithner, too."
Former Fed Chairman Bernanke did make the list as No. 3, along with his predecessor at the Fed, Alan Greenspan. The two men steered the central bank for all but a few months of the past 25 years.
Last week, Buffett told CNBC the U.S. stock market doesn't seem "too frothy," as some market watchers have suggested.
Berkshire's annual shareholders meeting will be held Saturday in Omaha, Neb., where tens of thousands of people show up each year to soak in Buffett's investment wisdom.
Warren Buffett rejected the suggestion the U.S. stock market is "too frothy" right now as the major indexes re-approach their all-time highs.
"I think we're in a range, and it's a big zone always, of reasonableness. But stocks ought to be higher every 10 years.There's a plow back of earnings that goes back year after year. Stocks will become worth more decade after decade, not in any precise manner, not in an even manner or anything of the sort. But 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, stocks will be worth more than they are today."
Asked if he agreed with investor David Einhorn's warning that "we are witnessing our second tech bubble in 15 years," Buffett said he doesn't always understand tech valuations, but it's not like the period before 2001 when "you could almost sell anything and capitalize eyeballs and all of that. I don't think it's reached that point and certainly I don't think the general market level is going to bubble up."
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.
Warren Buffett was interviewed live on CNBC's "Closing Bell" Wednesday.
Among the topics covered:
Jim Cramer is coming to Warren Buffett's defense.