Buffett Watch

Buffett's Partner Charlie Munger Blames Banks' "Evil and Folly" For Economic Crisis


Warren Buffett's long-time partner Charlie Munger tells CNBC "evil and folly" on the part of the banks and bankers have "helped create a catastrophe for everyone."

In a taped interview with Becky Quick today, Munger worries about the future.  "It will be politically hard to remove from the system the evil and folly that helped create the mess, because the people who make a lot of money out of the system as it is have a lot of political power and they don't want it changed."

He does think, however, that thanks to some "stunningly correct and stunningly effective" government policies, we're now on the right path economically.

In a separate interview with Bloomberg TV, Munger says he supports a "100 percent" ban on credit-default swaps.

Munger On Berkshire's Off Year

Here's the CNBC video clip and transcript of Becky's report on her conversation with the usually quiet Munger:

BECKY: Trish, thank you very much. Charlie Munger is a man who doesn't speak very often. Certainly doesn't speak to cameras even when he's here at the shareholders' meetings. He tends to have limited answers. Warren Buffett tends to take the stage. But when Charlie Munger speaks, you should listen up. He almost always says something worthwhile. He's the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. He has been Warren Buffett's partner for many decades. We got the change to catch up with him just a few minutes ago and talk to him about what he sees out there. Remember earlier this morning we were playing sound from Warren Buffett from last night. Warren Buffet is saying right now we've made it through Pearl Harbor, the economic Pearl Harbor that he first told CNBC about last fall, but he says right now we are still in the war. This morning speaking with Charlie Munger, we asked him about the same comments, where he thinks we are in this economy. Listen up.

MUNGER (on tape): Some of the policies are stunningly correct and stunningly effective. For instance, nationalizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and promptly allowing all the sound loans in the country to be redone at low interest rates was a marvelous idea. It's been promptly executed. I think the people who did that deserve enormous credit.

BECKY: Again, that's Charlie Munger talking about the path we're on right now. He says as far as he sees things, he thinks we are on the right path economically right now. Now, as to how we got on this path, he says this has been a horrible mess. He says we got here through evil and folly that created catastrophe. Very big words. You ask who he's talking about. The bankers? He says absolutely. Listen to what he says about the banks.

MUNGER (on tape): Evil and folly have crept into our system at steadily increasing amounts. And finally it helped create a catastrophe for everyone, created the biggest economic threat since 1930s. The conditions of the '20s and '30s gave us Adolf Hitler. That was really serious, and this one's not that serious, but it's the most serious we've had since that one. And it will be politically hard to remove from the system the evil and folly that helped create the mess, because the people who make a lot of money out of the system as it is have a lot of political power and they don't want it changed.

BECKY: All right. Again, Charlie Munger, if you've ever followed his career, you know he's incredibly different than his partner Warren Buffett. Buffett talks a lot, Charlie not so much. Warren Buffett has been someone who has supported Democratic candidates including Barack Obama during his run for the presidency. Charlie has always been someone who has had Republican leanings. But when you ask him now what he thinks about the situation, he says he thinks that people should get behind the president and this administration. He thinks that anything like the divisive partisan politics should be set aside now because there's too much at stake. Now, that's not to say Charlie agrees, Mr. Munger, agrees with everything that the administration is doing right now. In fact, if you ask him about cap and trade, well he has delicate thoughts on that. Listen in.

MUNGER (on tape): Well, I think it would be monstrously stupid to do it right now. It would be a huge shock to the economy, and it wouldn't accomplish very much. Given the fact that the vast majority of the pollutionists, or, rather, the CO2 is coming from a place like China. It would almost be demented if we would rush into cap and trade right now in the middle of this economic crisis.

BECKY: Yes, Mr. Munger has never been someone who minced words. When he thinks something's a dumb idea he says just that. We talked to him about a lot of things. Ethanol, what he sees with the economy, and some of these other administration plans. More on all of these things coming up today in the "Closing Bell." By the way, more of that interview Monday morning on "Squawk Box" as well. But those are some quick thoughts from Charlie Munger, who will be joining Warren Buffett right here in the Qwest Center tomorrow morning answering questions from shareholders.

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