Charlie Munger—my partner and Berkshire’s vice chairman—and I run what has turned out to be a big business, one with 217,000 employees and annual revenues approaching $100 billion. We certainly didn’t plan it that way. Charlie began as a lawyer, and I thought of myself as a security analyst. Sitting in those seats, we both grew skeptical about the ability of big entities of any type to function well. Size seems to make many organizations slow-thinking, resistant to change and smug. In Churchill’s words: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Here’s a telling fact: Of the ten non-oil companies having the largest market capitalization in 1965—titans such as General Motors, Sears, DuPont and Eastman Kodak—only one made the 2006 list.
In fairness, we’ve seen plenty of successes as well, some truly outstanding. There are many giant-company managers whom I greatly admire; Ken Chenault of American Express, Jeff Immelt of G.E. and Dick Kovacevich of Wells Fargo come quickly to mind. But I don’t think I could do the management job they do. And I know I wouldn’t enjoy many of the duties that come with their positions—meetings, speeches, foreign travel, the charity circuit and governmental relations. For me, Ronald Reagan had it right: “It’s probably true that hard work never killed anyone—but why take the chance?”
So I’ve taken the easy route, just sitting back and working through great managers who run their own shows. My only tasks are to cheer them on, sculpt and harden our corporate culture, and make major capital-allocation decisions. Our managers have returned this trust by working hard and effectively.
Lloyd’s, Equitas and Retroactive Reinsurance
Last year—we are getting now to Equitas—Berkshire agreed to enter into a huge retroactive reinsurance contract, a policy that protects an insurer against losses that have already happened, but whose cost is not yet known. I’ll give you details of the agreement shortly. But let’s first take a journey through insurance history, following the route that led to our deal.
Our tale begins around 1688, when Edward Lloyd opened a small coffee house in London. Though no Starbucks, his shop was destined to achieve worldwide fame because of the commercial activities of its clientele—shipowners, merchants and venturesome British capitalists. As these parties sipped Edward’s brew, they began to write contracts transferring the risk of a disaster at sea from the owners of ships and their cargo to the capitalists, who wagered that a given voyage would be completed without incident. These capitalists eventually became known as “underwriters at Lloyd’s.”
Though many people believe Lloyd’s to be an insurance company, that is not the case. It is instead a place where many member-insurers transact business, just as they did centuries ago.
Over time, the underwriters solicited passive investors to join in syndicates. Additionally, the business broadened beyond marine risks into every imaginable form of insurance, including exotic coverages that spread the fame of Lloyd’s far and wide. The underwriters left the coffee house, found grander quarters and formalized some rules of association. And those persons who passively backed the underwriters became known as “names.”
Eventually, the names came to include many thousands of people from around the world, who joined expecting to pick up some extra change without effort or serious risk. True, prospective names were always solemnly told that they would have unlimited and everlasting liability for the consequences of their syndicate’s underwriting—“down to the last cufflink,” as the quaint description went. But that warning came to be viewed as perfunctory. Three hundred years of retained cufflinks acted as a powerful sedative to the names poised to sign up.
Then came asbestos. When its prospective costs were added to the tidal wave of environmental and product claims that surfaced in the 1980s, Lloyd’s began to implode. Policies written decades earlier—and largely forgotten about—were developing huge losses. No one could intelligently estimate their total, but it was certain to be many tens of billions of dollars. The specter of unending and unlimited losses terrified existing names and scared away prospects. Many names opted for bankruptcy; some even chose suicide.
From these shambles, there came a desperate effort to resuscitate Lloyd’s. In 1996, the powers that be at the institution allotted £11.1 billion to a new company, Equitas, and made it responsible for paying all claims on policies written before 1993. In effect, this plan pooled the misery of the many syndicates in trouble. Of course, the money allotted could prove to be insufficient—and if that happened, the names remained liable for the shortfall.
But the new plan, by concentrating all of the liabilities in one place, had the advantage of eliminating much of the costly intramural squabbling that went on among syndicates. Moreover, the pooling allowed claims evaluation, negotiation and litigation to be handled more intelligently than had been the case previously. Equitas embraced Ben Franklin’s thinking: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall hang separately.”
From the start, many people predicted Equitas would eventually fail. But as Ajit and I reviewed the facts in the spring of 2006—13 years after the last exposed policy had been written and after the payment of £11.3 billion in claims—we concluded that the patient was likely to survive. And so we decided to offer a huge reinsurance policy to Equitas.
Because plenty of imponderables continue to exist, Berkshire could not provide Equitas, and its 27,972 names, unlimited protection. But we said—and I’m simplifying—that if Equitas would give us $7.12 billion in cash and securities (this is the float I spoke about), we would pay all of its future claims and expenses up to $13.9 billion. That amount was $5.7 billion above what Equitas had recently guessed its ultimate liabilities to be. Thus the names received a huge—and almost certainly sufficient—amount of future protection against unpleasant surprises. Indeed the protection is so large that Equitas plans a cash payment to its thousands of names, an event few of them had ever dreamed possible.
And how will Berkshire fare? That depends on how much “known” claims will end up costing us, how many yet-to-be-presented claims will surface and what they will cost, how soon claim payments will be made and how much we earn on the cash we receive before it must be paid out. Ajit and I think the odds are in our favor. And should we be wrong, Berkshire can handle it.
Scott Moser, the CEO of Equitas, summarized the transaction neatly: “Names wanted to sleep easy at night, and we think we’ve just bought them the world’s best mattress.”
The newspaper business
Not all of our businesses are destined to increase profits. When an industry’s underlying economics are crumbling, talented management may slow the rate of decline. Eventually, though, eroding fundamentals will overwhelm managerial brilliance. (As a wise friend told me long ago, “If you want to get a reputation as a good businessman, be sure to get into a good business.”) And fundamentals are definitely eroding in the newspaper industry, a trend that has caused the profits of our Buffalo News to decline. The skid will almost certainly continue.
When Charlie and I were young, the newspaper business was as easy a way to make huge returns as existed in America. As one not-too-bright publisher famously said, “I owe my fortune to two great American institutions: monopoly and nepotism.” No paper in a one-paper city, however bad the product or however inept the management, could avoid gushing profits.
The industry’s staggering returns could be simply explained. For most of the 20th Century, newspapers were the primary source of information for the American public. Whether the subject was sports, finance, or politics, newspapers reigned supreme. Just as important, their ads were the easiest way to find job opportunities or to learn the price of groceries at your town’s supermarkets.
The great majority of families therefore felt the need for a paper every day, but understandably most didn’t wish to pay for two. Advertisers preferred the paper with the most circulation, and readers tended to want the paper with the most ads and news pages. This circularity led to a law of the newspaper jungle: Survival of the Fattest.
Thus, when two or more papers existed in a major city (which was almost universally the case a century ago), the one that pulled ahead usually emerged as the stand-alone winner. After competition disappeared, the paper’s pricing power in both advertising and circulation was unleashed. Typically, rates for both advertisers and readers would be raised annually—and the profits rolled in. For owners this was economic heaven. (Interestingly, though papers regularly—and often in a disapproving way—reported on the profitability of, say, the auto or steel industries, they never enlightened readers about their own Midas-like situation. Hmmm . . .)
As long ago as my 1991 letter to shareholders, I nonetheless asserted that this insulated world was changing, writing that “the media businesses . . . will prove considerably less marvelous than I, the industry, or lenders thought would be the case only a few years ago.” Some publishers took umbrage at both this remark and other warnings from me that followed. Newspaper properties, moreover, continued to sell as if they were indestructible slot machines. In fact, many intelligent newspaper executives who regularly chronicled and analyzed important worldwide events were either blind or indifferent to what was going on under their noses.
Now, however, almost all newspaper owners realize that they are constantly losing ground in the battle for eyeballs. Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed.
In Berkshire’s world, Stan Lipsey does a terrific job running the Buffalo News, and I am enormously proud of its editor, Margaret Sullivan. The News’ penetration of its market is the highest among that of this country’s large newspapers. We also do better financially than most metropolitan newspapers, even though Buffalo’s population and business trends are not good. Nevertheless, this operation faces unrelenting pressures that will cause profit margins to slide.
True, we have the leading online news operation in Buffalo, and it will continue to attract more viewers and ads. However, the economic potential of a newspaper internet site—given the many alternative sources of information and entertainment that are free and only a click away—is at best a small fraction of that existing in the past for a print newspaper facing no competition.
For a local resident, ownership of a city’s paper, like ownership of a sports team, still produces instant prominence. With it typically comes power and influence. These are ruboffs that appeal to many people with money. Beyond that, civic-minded, wealthy individuals may feel that local ownership will serve their community well. That’s why Peter Kiewit bought the Omaha paper more than 40 years ago.
We are likely therefore to see non-economic individual buyers of newspapers emerge, just as we have seen such buyers acquire major sports franchises. Aspiring press lords should be careful, however: There’s no rule that says a newspaper’s revenues can’t fall below its expenses and that losses can’t mushroom. Fixed costs are high in the newspaper business, and that’s bad news when unit volume heads south. As the importance of newspapers diminishes, moreover, the “psychic” value of possessing one will wane, whereas owning a sports franchise will likely retain its cachet.
Unless we face an irreversible cash drain, we will stick with the News, just as we’ve said that we would. (Read economic principle 11, on page 76.) Charlie and I love newspapers—we each read five a day—and believe that a free and energetic press is a key ingredient for maintaining a great democracy. We hope that some combination of print and online will ward off economic doomsday for newspapers, and we will work hard in Buffalo to develop a sustainable business model. I think we will be successful. But the days of lush profits from our newspaper are over.
Weakened lending practices in residential real estate
Somewhat incongruously, MidAmerican owns the second largest real estate brokerage firm in the U.S., HomeServices of America. This company operates through 20 locally-branded firms with 20,300 agents. Despite HomeServices’ purchase of two operations last year, the company’s overall volume fell 9% to $58 billion, and profits fell 50%.
The slowdown in residential real estate activity stems in part from the weakened lending practices of recent years. The “optional” contracts and “teaser” rates that have been popular have allowed borrowers to make payments in the early years of their mortgages that fall far short of covering normal interest costs. Naturally, there are few defaults when virtually nothing is required of a borrower. As a cynic has said, “A rolling loan gathers no loss.” But payments not made add to principal, and borrowers who can’t afford normal monthly payments early on are hit later with above-normal monthly obligations. This is the Scarlett O’Hara scenario: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” For many home owners, “tomorrow” has now arrived. Consequently there is a huge overhang of offerings in several of HomeServices’ markets.
Nevertheless, we will be seeking to purchase additional brokerage operations. A decade from now, HomeServices will almost certainly be much larger.
We’ve come close to eliminating our direct foreign-exchange position, from which we realized about $186 million in pre-tax profits in 2006 (earnings that were included in the Finance and Financial Products table shown earlier). That brought our total gain since inception of this position in 2002 to $2.2 billion. Here’s a breakdown by currency:
|Total Gain (Loss) in Millions|
|Australian dollar||$247.1||Mexican peso||$106.1|
|British pound||287.2||New Zealand dollar||102.6|
|Canadian dollar||398.3||Singapore dollar||(2.6)|
|Chinese yuan||(12.7)||South Korean won||261.3|
|Hong Kong dollar||(2.5)||Taiwan dollar||(45.3)|
|Japanese yen||1.9||Miscellaneous options||22.9|
We’ve made large indirect currency profits as well, though I’ve never tallied the precise amount. For example, in 2002-2003 we spent about $82 million buying—of all things—Enron bonds, some of which were denominated in Euros. Already we’ve received distributions of $179 million from these bonds, and our remaining stake is worth $173 million. That means our overall gain is $270 million, part of which came from the appreciation of the Euro that took place after our bond purchase.
When we first began making foreign exchange purchases, interest-rate differentials between the U.S. and most foreign countries favored a direct currency position. But that spread turned negative in 2005. We therefore looked for other ways to gain foreign-currency exposure, such as the ownership of foreign equities or of U.S. stocks with major earnings abroad. The currency factor, we should emphasize, is not dominant in our selection of equities, but is merely one of many considerations.
As our U.S. trade problems worsen, the probability that the dollar will weaken over time continues to be high. I fervently believe in real trade—the more the better for both us and the world. We had about $1.44 trillion of this honest-to-God trade in 2006. But the U.S. also had $.76 trillion of pseudo-trade last year—imports for which we exchanged no goods or services. (Ponder, for a moment, how commentators would describe the situation if our imports were $.76 trillion—a full 6% of GDP—and we had no exports.)
Making these purchases that weren’t reciprocated by sales, the U.S. necessarily transferred ownership of its assets or IOUs to the rest of the world. Like a very wealthy but self-indulgent family, we peeled off a bit of what we owned in order to consume more than we produced.
The U.S. can do a lot of this because we are an extraordinarily rich country that has behaved responsibly in the past. The world is therefore willing to accept our bonds, real estate, stocks and businesses. And we have a vast store of these to hand over.
These transfers will have consequences, however. Already the prediction I made last year about one fall-out from our spending binge has come true: The “investment income” account of our country—positive in every previous year since 1915—turned negative in 2006. Foreigners now earn more on their U.S. investments than we do on our investments abroad. In effect, we’ve used up our bank account and turned to our credit card. And, like everyone who gets in hock, the U.S. will now experience “reverse compounding” as we pay ever-increasing amounts of interest on interest.
I want to emphasize that even though our course is unwise, Americans will live better ten or twenty years from now than they do today. Per-capita wealth will increase. But our citizens will also be forced every year to ship a significant portion of their current production abroad merely to service the cost of our huge debtor position. It won’t be pleasant to work part of each day to pay for the over-consumption of your ancestors. I believe that at some point in the future U.S. workers and voters will find this annual “tribute” so onerous that there will be a severe political backlash. How that will play out in markets is impossible to predict—but to expect a “soft landing” seems like wishful thinking.
I should mention that all of the direct currency profits we have realized have come from forward contracts, which are derivatives, and that we have entered into other types of derivatives contracts as well. That may seem odd, since you know of our expensive experience in unwinding the derivatives book at Gen Re and also have heard me talk of the systemic problems that could result from the enormous growth in the use of derivatives. Why, you may wonder, are we fooling around with such potentially toxic material?
The answer is that derivatives, just like stocks and bonds, are sometimes wildly mispriced. For many years, accordingly, we have selectively written derivative contracts—few in number but sometimes for large dollar amounts. We currently have 62 contracts outstanding. I manage them personally, and they are free of counterparty credit risk. So far, these derivative contracts have worked out well for us, producing pre-tax profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars (above and beyond the gains I’ve itemized from forward foreign-exchange contracts). Though we will experience losses from time to time, we are likely to continue to earn—overall—significant profits from mispriced derivatives.
Selecting a successor for the investment side of Berkshire’s business
Picking the right person(s) will not be an easy task. It’s not hard, of course, to find smart people, among them individuals who have impressive investment records. But there is far more to successful long-term investing than brains and performance that has recently been good.
Over time, markets will do extraordinary, even bizarre, things. A single, big mistake could wipe out a long string of successes. We therefore need someone genetically programmed to recognize and avoid serious risks, including those never before encountered. Certain perils that lurk in investment strategies cannot be spotted by use of the models commonly employed today by financial institutions.
Temperament is also important. Independent thinking, emotional stability, and a keen understanding of both human and institutional behavior is vital to long-term investment success. I’ve seen a lot of very smart people who have lacked these virtues.
Selecting a new director for Berkshire’s board
In selecting a new director, we were guided by our long-standing criteria, which are that board members be owner-oriented, business-savvy, interested and truly independent. I say “truly” because many directors who are now deemed independent by various authorities and observers are far from that, relying heavily as they do on directors’ fees to maintain their standard of living. These payments, which come in many forms, often range between $150,000 and $250,000 annually, compensation that may approach or even exceed all other income of the “independent” director. And—surprise, surprise—director compensation has soared in recent years, pushed up by recommendations from corporate America’s favorite consultant, Ratchet, Ratchet and Bingo. (The name may be phony, but the action it conveys is not.)
Charlie and I believe our four criteria are essential if directors are to do their job—which, by law, is to faithfully represent owners. Yet these criteria are usually ignored. Instead, consultants and CEOs seeking board candidates will often say, “We’re looking for a woman,” or “a Hispanic,” or “someone from abroad,” or what have you. It sometimes sounds as if the mission is to stock Noah’s ark. Over the years I’ve been queried many times about potential directors and have yet to hear anyone ask, “Does he think like an intelligent owner?”
The questions I instead get would sound ridiculous to someone seeking candidates for, say, a football team, or an arbitration panel or a military command. In those cases, the selectors would look for people who had the specific talents and attitudes that were required for a specialized job. At Berkshire, we are in the specialized activity of running a business well, and therefore we seek business judgment.
Blue Chips Stamps
Every now and then Charlie and I catch on early to a tide-like trend, one brimming over with commercial promise. For example, though American Airlines (with its “miles”) and American Express (with credit card points) are credited as being trailblazers in granting customers “rewards,” Charlie and I were far ahead of them in spotting the appeal of this powerful idea. Excited by our insight, the two of us jumped into the reward business way back in 1970 by buying control of a trading stamp operation, Blue Chip Stamps. In that year, Blue Chip had sales of $126 million, and its stamps papered California.
In 1970, indeed, about 60 billion of our stamps were licked by savers, pasted into books, and taken to Blue Chip redemption stores. Our catalog of rewards was 116 pages thick and chock full of tantalizing items. When I was told that even certain brothels and mortuaries gave stamps to their patrons, I felt I had finally found a sure thing.
Well, not quite. From the day Charlie and I stepped into the Blue Chip picture, the business went straight downhill. By 1980, sales had fallen to $19.4 million. And, by 1990, sales were bumping along at $1.5 million. No quitter, I redoubled my managerial efforts.
Sales then fell another 98%. Last year, in Berkshire’s $98 billion of revenues, all of $25,920 (no zeros omitted) came from Blue Chip. Ever hopeful, Charlie and I soldier on.
I mentioned last year that in my service on 19 corporate boards (not counting Berkshire or other controlled companies), I have been the Typhoid Mary of compensation committees. At only one company was I assigned to comp committee duty, and then I was promptly outvoted on the most crucial decision that we faced. My ostracism has been peculiar, considering that I certainly haven’t lacked experience in setting CEO pay. At Berkshire, after all, I am a one-man compensation committee who determines the salaries and incentives for the CEOs of around 40 significant operating businesses.
How much time does this aspect of my job take? Virtually none. How many CEOs have voluntarily left us for other jobs in our 42-year history? Precisely none.
Berkshire employs many different incentive arrangements, with their terms depending on such elements as the economic potential or capital intensity of a CEO’s business. Whatever the compensation arrangement, though, I try to keep it both simple and fair.
When we use incentives—and these can be large—they are always tied to the operating results for which a given CEO has authority. We issue no lottery tickets that carry payoffs unrelated to business performance. If a CEO bats .300, he gets paid for being a .300 hitter, even if circumstances outside of his control cause Berkshire to perform poorly. And if he bats .150, he doesn’t get a payoff just because the successes of others have enabled Berkshire to prosper mightily. An example: We now own $61 billion of equities at Berkshire, whose value can easily rise or fall by 10% in a given year. Why in the world should the pay of our operating executives be affected by such $6 billion swings, however important the gain or loss may be for shareholders?
You’ve read loads about CEOs who have received astronomical compensation for mediocre results. Much less well-advertised is the fact that America’s CEOs also generally live the good life. Many, it should be emphasized, are exceptionally able, and almost all work far more than 40 hours a week. But they are usually treated like royalty in the process. (And we’re certainly going to keep it that way at Berkshire. Though Charlie still favors sackcloth and ashes, I prefer to be spoiled rotten. Berkshire owns The Pampered Chef; our wonderful office group has made me The Pampered Chief.)
CEO perks at one company are quickly copied elsewhere. “All the other kids have one” may seem a thought too juvenile to use as a rationale in the boardroom. But consultants employ precisely this argument, phrased more elegantly of course, when they make recommendations to comp committees.
Irrational and excessive comp practices will not be materially changed by disclosure or by “independent” comp committee members. Indeed, I think it’s likely that the reason I was rejected for service on so many comp committees was that I was regarded as too independent. Compensation reform will only occur if the largest institutional shareholders—it would only take a few—demand a fresh look at the whole system. The consultants’ present drill of deftly selecting “peer” companies to compare with their clients will only perpetuate present excesses.
The Gotrocks again
In last year’s report I allegorically described the Gotrocks family—a clan that owned all of America’s businesses and that counterproductively attempted to increase its investment returns by paying ever-greater commissions and fees to “helpers.” Sad to say, the “family” continued its self-destructive ways in 2006.
In part the family persists in this folly because it harbors unrealistic expectations about obtainable returns. Sometimes these delusions are self-serving. For example, private pension plans can temporarily overstate their earnings, and public pension plans can defer the need for increased taxes, by using investment assumptions that are likely to be out of reach. Actuaries and auditors go along with these tactics, and it can be decades before the chickens come home to roost (at which point the CEO or public official who misled the world is apt to be gone).
Meanwhile, Wall Street’s Pied Pipers of Performance will have encouraged the futile hopes of the family. The hapless Gotrocks will be assured that they all can achieve above-average investment performance—but only by paying ever-higher fees. Call this promise the adult version of Lake Woebegon.
In 2006, promises and fees hit new highs. A flood of money went from institutional investors to the 2-and-20 crowd. For those innocent of this arrangement, let me explain: It’s a lopsided system whereby 2% of your principal is paid each year to the manager even if he accomplishes nothing—or, for that matter, loses you a bundle—and, additionally, 20% of your profit is paid to him if he succeeds, even if his success is due simply to a rising tide. For example, a manager who achieves a gross return of 10% in a year will keep 3.6 percentage points—two points off the top plus 20% of the residual 8 points—leaving only 6.4 percentage points for his investors. On a $3 billion fund, this 6.4% net “performance” will deliver the manager a cool $108 million. He will receive this bonanza even though an index fund might have returned 15% to investors in the same period and charged them only a token fee.
The inexorable math of this grotesque arrangement is certain to make the Gotrocks family poorer over time than it would have been had it never heard of these “hyper-helpers.” Even so, the 2-and-20 action spreads. Its effects bring to mind the old adage: When someone with experience proposes a deal to someone with money, too often the fellow with money ends up with the experience, and the fellow with experience ends up with the money.
Let me end this section by telling you about one of the good guys of Wall Street, my long-time friend Walter Schloss, who last year turned 90. From 1956 to 2002, Walter managed a remarkably successful investment partnership, from which he took not a dime unless his investors made money. My admiration for Walter, it should be noted, is not based on hindsight. A full fifty years ago, Walter was my sole recommendation to a St. Louis family who wanted an honest and able investment manager.
Walter did not go to business school, or for that matter, college. His office contained one file cabinet in 1956; the number mushroomed to four by 2002. Walter worked without a secretary, clerk or bookkeeper, his only associate being his son, Edwin, a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts. Walter and Edwin never came within a mile of inside information. Indeed, they used “outside” information only sparingly, generally selecting securities by certain simple statistical methods Walter learned while working for Ben Graham. When Walter and Edwin were asked in 1989 by Outstanding Investors Digest, “How would you summarize your approach?” Edwin replied, “We try to buy stocks cheap.” So much for Modern Portfolio Theory, technical analysis, macroeconomic thoughts and complex algorithms.
Following a strategy that involved no real risk—defined as permanent loss of capital—Walter produced results over his 47 partnership years that dramatically surpassed those of the S&P 500. It’s particularly noteworthy that he built this record by investing in about 1,000 securities, mostly of a lackluster type. A few big winners did not account for his success. It’s safe to say that had millions of investment managers made trades by a) drawing stock names from a hat; b) purchasing these stocks in comparable amounts when Walter made a purchase; and then c) selling when Walter sold his pick, the luckiest of them would not have come close to equaling his record. There is simply no possibility that what Walter achieved over 47 years was due to chance.
I first publicly discussed Walter’s remarkable record in 1984. At that time “efficient market theory” (EMT) was the centerpiece of investment instruction at most major business schools. This theory, as then most commonly taught, held that the price of any stock at any moment is not demonstrably mispriced, which means that no investor can be expected to overperform the stock market averages using only publicly-available information (though some will do so by luck). When I talked about Walter 23 years ago, his record forcefully contradicted this dogma.
And what did members of the academic community do when they were exposed to this new and important evidence? Unfortunately, they reacted in all-too-human fashion: Rather than opening their minds, they closed their eyes. To my knowledge no business school teaching EMT made any attempt to study Walter’s performance and what it meant for the school’s cherished theory.
Instead, the faculties of the schools went merrily on their way presenting EMT as having the certainty of scripture. Typically, a finance instructor who had the nerve to question EMT had about as much chance of major promotion as Galileo had of being named Pope.
Tens of thousands of students were therefore sent out into life believing that on every day the price of every stock was “right” (or, more accurately, not demonstrably wrong) and that attempts to evaluate businesses—that is, stocks—were useless. Walter meanwhile went on overperforming, his job made easier by the misguided instructions that had been given to those young minds. After all, if you are in the shipping business, it’s helpful to have all of your potential competitors be taught that the earth is flat.
Maybe it was a good thing for his investors that Walter didn’t go to college.
“One hapless soul last year asked Charlie what he should do if he didn’t enjoy the book. Back came a Mungerism: “No problem—just give it to someone more intelligent.”
 Poor Charlie’s Almanack, https://www.poorcharliesalmanack.com/