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Warren Buffett Won't Get Grilled in Hartford

Friday, 8 Feb 2008 | 11:37 AM ET
Warren Buffett, right, chairman of Berkshire Hathawy Inc., speaks to the media while Ron Ferguson, chairman and chief executive officer of General Re, listens in New York on Friday, June 19, 1998. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is buying General Re for $22 billion worth of stock, adding one of the world's leading insurers of insurance companies to its portfolio. Berkshire announced Friday after the stock market closed that it would let General Re operate independently of its other insurance operations,
Adam Nadel
Warren Buffett, right, chairman of Berkshire Hathawy Inc., speaks to the media while Ron Ferguson, chairman and chief executive officer of General Re, listens in New York on Friday, June 19, 1998. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is buying General Re for $22 billion worth of stock, adding one of the world's leading insurers of insurance companies to its portfolio. Berkshire announced Friday after the stock market closed that it would let General Re operate independently of its other insurance operations,

Warren Buffett won't be going to Hartford, Connecticut to testify in a criminal corporate fraud trial involving former executives of Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary General Re.

Jurors are now expected to begin their deliberations next week. The defense rested its case yesterday (Thursday) after calling five witnesses over two days. None of them were named Buffett.

Four one-time Gen Re executives and one former American International Group exceutive are accused of cooking up an illegal deal to make AIG's reserves look better than they actually were.

Last December, defense attorney Reid Weingarten told CNBC's Charlie Gasparino he might call Buffett to the stand in an effort to show that he knew about the deal in question and did nothing to stop it. Prosecutors had originally listed Buffett on their witness list, anticipating that his testimony might be needed to refute defense arguments that he had approved the deal.

The 'Buffett testifies' scenario seemed unlikely to me as the trial began. In the January 9 WBW post Will Warren Buffett Get Grilled in Hartford? (I Have My Doubts), I wrote:

Even if Weingarten can show that Buffett was aware of the deal and approved it, or at least didn't try to stop it, the government will presumably argue that Buffett was another victim of the conspirators' efforts to conceal the true, illicit nature of the transaction.

It feels like an uphill battle for the defense, and I have my doubts about whether Weingarten will go ahead and actually call Buffett to the stand for a grilling about what he knew and when he knew it.

In the end neither side called Buffett, so he won't have to make the trip to Connecticut. And I won't need to make any more predictionsfor awhile.

Questions? Comments? Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com

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