Asked about the recent increase in energy prices, Buffett says it definitely has an impact, acting, in effect, as a tax increase that goes to OPEC rather than the United States Treasury. He believes the best way to deal with prices is for the country to use less oil.
Buffett again expressed pessimism on the long-term trend of the U.S. dollar, saying he wouldn't bet on it against other currencies.
On the David Sokol scandal, a prime topicat this weekend's shareholders meeting, Buffett repeats that he thought Sokol's trading in Lubrizol shares was "wrong."
Asked why he didn't show more "outrage" in the news release he wrote in late March announcing Sokol's resignation, Buffett says at the time he thought his anger was evidentfrom the fact he didn't ask Sokol to stay with the company, as he had done several times before.
Buffett says Sokol probably thought the original news release was "ruthless" even if the rest of the world did not. "I wrote the press release, so if it came off badly, it's my fault."
While Buffett says he can't say with "absolute certainty," he's never seen any evidence in the markets or otherwise that anyone had tried to frontrun a Berkshire deal.
Sokol has said he doesn't think his ownership of Lubrizol shares was any different from Charlie Munger holding shares in BYD before Berkshire took a 10 percent stakein the Chinese electric-car maker.
Buffett says the difference is timing. (Munger made the same argument in a taped interviewwith Becky Quick yesterday.) Munger held his BYD position for some time before Berkshire got interested. Sokol had bought his shares only weeks before recommending Lubrizol's purchase to Buffett. Berkshire wound up buying the companyat a 28 percent premium in mid-March.
Responding to a complaint from Sokol's lawyer, Buffett says Berkshire's Audit Committee, author of last week's scathing report on Sokol, would still welcome any chance to hear Sokol's side.
In a statement late Saturday, Sokol lawyer Barry Levine says his client is "deeply saddened" that Buffett "would disparage him as he has done today" and again maintained that Sokol never broke the law or any Berkshire policy.
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