CNBC INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT & VIDEO, Part 3: Warren Buffett Explains His $5B Goldman Investment
Warren Buffett was interviewed live by telephone on CNBC's Squawk Box this morning about his surprise investment of at least $5 billion in Goldman Sachs.
A summary is available in the post Warren Buffett to CNBC: Government Bailout Plan Made $5B Goldman Investment Possible.
This is part three of the complete transcript of that conversation.
BECKY QUICK: Mr. Buffett, the front page of the Wall Street Journal and other media organizations around the globe have been picking this up, your move yesterday into Goldman Sachs, as a vote of confidence in the banking institutions across the globe. Is that fair?
BUFFETT: Well, I'm not buying a cross-section of banking institutions. But I certainly have confidence in Goldman. And you can say it's a vote of confidence in the Congress to do the right thing with something that's being debated before them right now.
CARL QUINTANILLA: You know, Warren, some might say, 'OK, we know Buffett is a pure capitalist. he's in this to make money and nothing else.' But also you're a philanthropist, you have interests in seeing the country do well over time. Some might say he's doing this, he's timed this to help get the package through. Is there anything -- is that even close to reality?
BUFFETT: No. I timed this because Goldman Sachs yesterday came up with something that made sense to me. I'm not brave enough, to try and influence the Congress. The other way around, they influence me. And I am betting on the Congress doing the right thing for the American public by passing this bill and not trying to doctor it up with a hundred things that, you know, emotionally they feel should be on the bill but as a practical matter will gum things up.
CARL: When do you think, Warren -- I don't know if you even have an answer to this question -- When is the absolute deadline by which you think this needs to happen? Is it this weekend? Can you be that specific? Or if this thing were to bleed into next week, or if they had to reconvene a special session, would that be disastrous?
BUFFETT: Well, I think anything that makes it look like it's in doubt is what causes the problem. So if they said on Friday we're absolutely having a vote on Monday, or something of the sort, I don't think that would be a problem. But if they went home on Friday and there was doubt about whether they were going to do something on Monday, I think you'd see some things you don't want to see in the markets and they would have some effects on the economy.
JOE: You were watching yesterday, and I don't know, maybe I don't know the ways of Washington. Maybe they say one thing and maybe they're really planning -- you know, they have to look good for their constituents. But I wasn't convinced they really understood the seriousness of the situation, Warren, and that was after they said, look, Greenspan says we need this, Volcker says we need this, Bernanke, Paulson. Now we have you. I don't know. Do you think they get it?
BUFFETT: Well, I think they will get it. I think enough of them will get it. You know, it's not like Pearl Harbor where you could look at what happened with your own eyes and decide you had to do something that day. But this is sort of an economic Pearl Harbor we're going through. And I think most of them will get it. And I do believe they will do what's right for the country. They may vent their spleen a little bit by getting mad about the people that brought us into that, and I don't blame them for that. I might do that privately, too. But in the end, you know, Republican, Democrat, I think they've got the interest of the country at heart and I think they will do the right thing. But I hope they do it soon. (Laughs.)
BECKY: Warren, how long were you talking to Goldman Sachs and how significantly did they have to change the terms of the deal to get you interested?
BUFFETT: Well, what they -- they had talked with me -- almost every financial institution has talked with me, that you read about, over the past few weeks. But, but, they were serious yesterday about doing something. They said, in effect said, 'What would you do? What would Berkshire do? And I laid out something. And they said, 'That makes sense to us.' And we had a deal. It doesn't take long.
JOE: You were kidding Becky when you said that you did this just 'cause you knew we were going to ask you when you were going to do something in financials again and you wanted to have an answer.
BUFFETT: Joe, Joe, I was not -- you know, I was trembling with the thought of you asking me again, 'When are you finally going to do something?' (Laughs.) So this was definitely an attempt to get you off my back.
JOE: It was a cheap way, a mere five billion, so you'd have something to show us this time.
BUFFETT: That's right. I mean, your withering questioning is just too tough for me. (Laughs.)
BECKY: You know, you mentioned earlier, in the grand scheme of things, it's going to matter who the next Treasury Secretary is going to be. Are there names of people you think would be sound in either administration.
BUFFETT: Becky, if I were running things, Republican or Democrat, I would ask Hank to stay on. I mean, you don't get talent like that very often in any administrative job. And the guy pays an enormous price to do it. He's probably sleeping three or four hours a night. He knows the market. He's got the interests of the country at heart. So I think if I were either Barack Obama or John McCain and found myself in the White House in January, I would go down there and say, 'Hank, do me a favor, stick around another year.'
CARL: And Warren, if you believe, as a lot of people do, that we are in for several years of this unwinding process, the government's going to play a huge role. If you were called to do something on the public side, would you do it?
READY TO SERVE?
BUFFETT: Well, I would certainly be glad to help in any way that I could. You know, I would be looked at as having conflicts-of-interest, I'm sure. But anytime I can be helpful on something -- For example, in terms of what you might do with institutions that participated in this program, I think the Treasury can, they can lay down some terms for these people. I don't think they should be in the legislation, but I think -- And if anybody wants my opinion on it, I'd be glad to help them out.
BECKY: Warren, if ...