Buffett Watch

Buffett stock picker gets JPMorgan board seat; doesn't mean Berkshire stake yet

Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.
Lacy O'Toole | CNBC

One of Warren Buffett's top stock pickers, Todd Combs, has just been added to the JPMorgan Chase board of directors. Does that mean Berkshire Hathaway has bought a stake in the giant bank?

Tuesday morning's news release from JPMorgan offers nothing definitive. Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon is quoted as praising Combs as an "extraordinary leader, investor and thinker,with a deep understanding of finance and business."

Buffett has praised Dimon, telling CNBC he "writes the best annual letter in corporate America." But in that February 2012 interview, Buffett said his favorite bank stock was Wells Fargo and Berkshire reported owning more than $22 billion worth of Wells stock as of June 30.

At the same time, Buffett revealed that he personally owns "some" shares of JPMorgan. Why buy them for himself and not on behalf of Berkshire? He told us, "Well, because Berkshire doesn't own it, and it's one that I can buy without having any possible problems about conflict."

We don't know if Buffett still has JPMorgan shares in his personal portfolio and, if he does, whether that would be enough to stop Combs from buying some on behalf of Berkshire, if that's what he even wanted to do.

A Berkshire stake in JPMorgan feels unlikely, but it is a possibility.

Berkshire didn't respond to a request for comment.

Another possibility has been raised by bank analyst Richard Bove at Rafferty Capital Markets. He wrote in a note today that Comb's appointment is a sign of Buffett's displeasure with Wells Fargo amid its very public fake accounts scandal. By placing one of his "key lieutenants" on Dimon's board when Berkshire doesn't own any of JPMorgan's stock, Buffett is "clearly walking away" from Wells Fargo.

We'll know more in mid-November when Berkshire makes its quarterly filing with the SEC to reveal its U.S. publicly traded stock holdings as of the end of this month.