Warren Buffett tells the BBC the American public can't be blamed for its anger over the damaging economic fallout from the last fall's near-collapse of the global financial system, especially since no one has been held criminally responsible.
In a video clip posted by the BBC ahead of its U.K. broadcast tonight (Monday) of a special program on Buffett, the Omaha billionaire is asked about the public's "visceral" reaction to executives of financial firms getting big paydays, even after those firms had to be rescued by the government.
"It's infuriating - I can speak more about the American public - but it's infuriating to people to see their friends losing their jobs. In terms of seeing their friends having their homes foreclosed upon, whatever it may be. And, nobody going to jail. It was one thing in Enron. At least you had (Jeffrey) Skilling and Ken Lay, or WorldCom or those things. Society at least felt there was a little bit of vengeance taking place. (Laughs.) But here nobody's going to jail. In fact, a lot of them are walking off with tons of money which they got, in many cases, with preferential tax terms. So the American public's exasperation of this is very understandable...
On the other hand, I will say this. Last September and October our public officials, the key ones, particularly (Federal Reserve) Chairman Bernanke but (Treasury) Secretary Paulson, too, what they did was absolutely essential to the system even surviving."
Buffett's interview will be featured in a program airing tonight at 9p (London time) on BBC Two entitled The World's Greatest Money Maker: Evan Davis Meets Warren Buffett. Davis is a financial journalist who now hosts Today, BBC Radio Four's"flagship news and current affairs" program.
The BBC's web site features several articles based on the program, including an overview, a collection of Buffett's words of wisdom, his best investments, the "Top 10 Paradoxes of Warren Buffett," and a collection of photos from the Buffett family album.
There are also video clips featuring excerpts from interviews with key figures from Buffett's life, including:
- Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. He calls Buffett a "unique leader."
- "Old friend" and investor David 'Sandy' Gottesman. He notes that Buffett "loves hamburgers."
- Washington Post Chairman & CEO Don Graham. He acknowledges a great debt to the "unusually smart" Buffett for his business advice over the years.
- Daughter Susie Buffett. She's running a charitable foundation in the same Omaha building where Buffett has worked for almost half a century.
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